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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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Sexual Citizenship The concept of sexual citizenship asserts that people have the right to sexual self-determination, including young people. Recognizing young people’s sexual citizenship prepares them to both say no and yes, as well as to be able to hear other people when they do or don’t want to have sex. It also recognizes their fundamental humanity. Establishing sexual citizenship and autonomy for young people is a critical step in preventing campus sexual assault and promoting relationships based on trust, kindness, and love. Power and Precarity Meaningful action against sexual assault in its many forms must be grounded in a general project of equality because experiences of assault are fundamentally about power and precarity. Studies show young people who have difficulty paying for basic needs are at a significantly elevated risk of sexual assault. The highest rates of sexual assault reports come from LGBTQ communities because of systemic invalidation of queer identities. Racism, gender discrimination, transphobia, homophobia, and income inequality exacerbate the occurrence of sexual assault. Comprehensive Sex Ed Comprehensive sexual education goes well beyond biology, teaching healthy habits and boundaries around consent and mutual respect. Women who have learned refusal skills are half as likely to be assaulted as their less educated peers. Multi-faceted sex education should begin at a young age, so that by the time they mature, young people are prepared to safely and responsibly explore their sexuality. Parents also play a critical role in how to bring values like trust and empathy to any sexual interaction. Find out more: Jennifer S. Hirsch is professor of socio-medical sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. Her research spans five intertwined domains: the anthropology of love; gender, sexuality and migration; sexual, reproductive and HIV risk practices; social scientific research on sexual assault and undergraduate well-being, and the intersections between anthropology and public health. She's been named one of New York City's 16 'Heroes in the Fight Against Gender-Based Violence.' In 2012 she was selected as a Guggenheim Fellow. You can follow her on Twitter @JenniferSHirsch. Shamus Khan is professor and chair of sociology at Columbia University. He is the author of dozens of books and articles on inequality, American Culture, gender, and elites. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and many other media outlets. In 2018 he was awarded the Hans L. Zetterberg Prize for "the best sociologist under 40." You can follow him on Twitter @shamuskhan. “Sexual Citizens reveals the social ecosystem that makes sexual assault a predictable element of life on a college campus. The powerful concepts of sexual projects, sexual citizenship, and sexual geographies provide a new language for understanding the forces that shape young people’s sexual relationships. Bringing attention to the importance of physical spaces, of peer influences and norms, of alcohol, and most of all, to the many forms of inequality on campus helps shine new and powerful light upon the ways in which young people experience and interpret sex and assault. The result is an innovative lens that transforms our understanding of sexual assault and provides a new roadmap for how to address it.
Surveillance Capitalism Surveillance Capitalism is the dominant economic logic in our world today. It claims private human experience for the marketplace and turns it into a commodity. Vast amounts of personal data are necessary -- often harvested without our knowledge or consent –- in order to predict future behavior. Surveillance capitalists create certainties for companies by modifying people's behavior. Instrumentarian Power Instrumentarianism seeks to modify, predict, monetize, and control human behavior through the instruments of surveillance capitalism, our digital devices. Having mined all of our data, instrumentarians can tune and herd users into specific actions through triggers and subliminal messaging. It is ultimately a political project intended to install computational governance instead of democratic governance. Protecting Your Privacy A myriad of programs and apps can block tracking and scramble your location, making your behavioral data less accessible or even inaccessible. Since instrumentarians gain their power through our use of their devices, limiting internet use and working in-person reduces the power they have over you. Find out more: Shoshana Zuboff is the Charles Edward Wilson Professor Emerita at Harvard Business School and a former Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. Her masterwork, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, synthesizes years of research and thinking to reveal a world in which technology users are neither customers, employees, nor products. Instead, they are the raw material for new procedures of manufacturing and sales that define an entirely new economic order: a surveillance economy. In the late 1980s, her decade-in-the-making book, In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power, became an instant classic that foresaw how computers would revolutionize the modern workplace. At the dawn of the twenty-first century her influential The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism (with James Maxmin), written before the invention of the iPod or Uber, predicted the rise of digitally-mediated products and services tailored to the individual. It warned of the individual and societal risks if companies failed to alter their approach to capitalism. You can follow her on Twitter @shoshanazuboff
After listening to this episode, try deep canvassing yourself! Click HERE to read the step-by-step guide. We'd love to compare notes and see how you did. After you've canvassed, tell us about your experience by leaving a message at (929) 262-0752. Thank you! Deep Canvassing Deep canvassing was developed to better understand voters in response to California’s Prop 8 legislation, which outlawed gay marriage. Sharing personal stories and active listening techniques establish common ground, even among voters with totally different opinions. These kinds of meaningful exchanges lead to constructive, positive dialogue that can change minds and achieve political results at a higher rate than traditional canvassing. How to deep canvass Start with the change you seek. Put together a list of people to talk to. Recruit a buddy. Before the call, think about someone you love and why you love them. On the call, genuinely listen to people and ask meaningful questions based on what they say. Share a personal story with a loved one where decency and kindness -- instead of judgment -- was extended. Connect the issue with that person’s real lived experience. Reconnect with the buddy and compare notes. Voting is Personal Voting is both a political and a personal act. Thinking about voting as a gift to our loved ones is a powerful way to make clear what the stakes are around voting and the world we live in. Deep canvassing taps into the real lived experience of how we treat each other, connecting the dots to why we vote and who we vote for. Find out more: David Fleischer is the Director of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Leadership LAB. The Center’s carefully honed method of “deep canvassing” delivered the first empirically tested and proven process where a single conversation decreases prejudice in a long-lasting way. Developed after the shocking 2008 win for Prop 8, which made gay marriage illegal in the state of California, Fleischer was motivated to figure out why, in this seemingly open-minded state, people voted against gay and lesbian people who wanted to marry. To find out, he and the Leadership LAB organizers and volunteers went to the neighborhoods where they had lost the worst; 15,000 one-on-one conversations later, they had learned several universally actionable pieces of information. You can learn more about David and his work here, and you can follow the LA LGBT Center on Twitter @LALGBTCenter
Culture Informs Politics The Alt-Right believes politics is downstream from culture. They operate in this meta-political sphere where changing American politics must start with changing culture, discourse, and language. The internet allowed the Alt-Right’s ideology to proliferate through memes, in online communities, and finally into mainstream culture. After the 2016 election collapsed the timing between culture and politics, the internet continues to serve as a platform to disseminate their cultural values. Conversely, de-platforming prominent Alt-Right voices like Gavin McInnes and Alex Jones has reduced their ability to gain new adherents. Gateway to Extremism The Proud Boys, McInnes’s group, is a gateway to right-wing extremism. They often claim plausible deniability by saying anti-Semitic or transphobic memes are jokes and using seemingly harmless initiation rituals to lure young white men into their orbit. They attempt to “red-pill” their followers and decry modernity, liberalism, egalitarianism, and feminism. They would like America to re-embrace a “traditional” natural order in which white men are at the top of the pyramid, one of the central ideas of white supremacy.  According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, groups like The Proud Boys are often the first step toward white nationalism. Countering the Alt-Right We must support democratic uses of social media to create a fair online environment. Pressuring companies like Facebook and YouTube to call out and remove hate; exposing the farce of nostalgia for a dominant white culture; and pushing back against tribalistic tendencies, especially among teenagers online, is critical. The Alt-Right is focused heavily on gender norms, so supporting transgender and LGBTQ+ rights is an actionable way to promote and support an inclusive society. Further, we should infuse our public discourse with a positive and racially pluralistic message. Find out more: Alexandra Minna Stern is Carroll Smith-Rosenberg Collegiate of History, American Culture and Women’s and Gender Studies and Associate Dean for the Humanities at the University of Michigan. She also directs the Sterilization and Social Justice Lab housed in the Department of American Culture. Her research has focused on the history of eugenics, genetics, society, and justice in the United States and Latin America. Through these topics, she explored the dynamics of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, disability, social difference, and reproductive politics. Her book, Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate: How the Alt-Right is Warping the American Imagination, applies the lenses of historical analysis, feminist studies, and critical race studies to deconstructing the core ideas of the alt-right and white nationalism. You can learn more at her website: http://www.minnastern.com/.
Conservative media activism Beginning with the America First Movement, conservative political activists also became conservative media figures. In addition to writing conservative books and hosting radio or television programs, these activists also created civic organizations and worked on political campaigns from Eisenhower to Goldwater and Reagan. Media is an important part of their political activism, and not a separate, objective endeavor. Politics of Ideas Conservatives believe political change starts with ideas. They build political power through spreading and popularizing their ideas through their own media outlets where ideology trumps facts on the ground. Conservative audiences -- primed only to right-wing views -- believe that only their sources are right, both factually and ideologically. Hence, conservative voices became the only ones telling the truth. Epistemological divide We are experiencing an epistemological divide where liberals and conservatives have fundamentally different understandings of the truth. This divide is partly born out of the rise of conservative media, which is based on faith claims, or claims of personal authority and knowledge, rather than observable facts. Because many conservatives believe what conservative media and political personalities tell them, they are often impervious to fact-checking and the promotion of truth. Find out more: Nicole Hemmer is a professor and political historian specializing in media, conservatism, and the far-right. She is the author of Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics. In addition to being an associate research scholar with the Obama Presidency Oral History Project, she is also co-founder and co-editor of Made by History, the historical analysis section of the Washington Post, and co-host of the Past Present podcast. Hemmer’s historical analysis has appeared in a number of national and international news outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Atlantic, Politico, U.S. News & World Report, New Republic, PBS NewsHour, CNN, NPR, and NBC News. You can follow her on Twitter @pastpunditry.
Ethical Communication Ethical communication involves respect and civil discourse. Taking time to listen to other sides and treating lawmakers with civility are key to a healthy democratic process. Respecting procedures that bolster the institutions of democracy and working together can help us achieve a better America. The truth is click bait The truth is not boring. We can be clever about presenting truth and facts. Presenting the truth in a click bait format—with catchy headlines, good photos, and a listicle—is possible. Ethical communication doesn’t have to be dry, like eating our vegetables. Improving the media The media can and should cover politics in a way that encourages citizens to be engaged participants in a democracy, instead of spectators. Recognizing robust and ethical leadership in our lawmakers will encourage a high bar of communication among all politicians. Supporting substantive reporting through subscriptions is imperative. Find out more: Peter Loge is the founding director of the Project on Ethics in Political Communication and an Associate Professor in the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University, as well as a strategic communication consultant. He has served in senior positions for Senator Edward Kennedy, for three members of the US House of Representatives, and in the Obama administration. Loge has led and advised a range of campaigns and organizations, put the first Member of Congress on the internet, lobbied for “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” served as a Senior Policy Advisor for health care in the US House during the debate over the Affordable Care Act, and was a Chief of Staff in the House of Representatives during the Clinton impeachment proceedings. You can follow him on Twitter @ploge.
Who Gets Fact-Checked? PolitiFact finds statements of “fact” by American politicians that can be verified and are highly visible, or pertinent, to a current national conversation. This is the reason why high-ranking officials such as Members of Congress, Senators, Cabinet members, and the President are at the top of the list. The President gets checked a lot—and fails nearly 70% of the time!  The Fact-Checking Process PolitiFact looks for evidence to support that a statement is accurate or less than entirely accurate: scouring independently verifiable information from sources like the Bureaus of Labor Statistics or Economic Analysis; turning to experts in a given field; and also asking the person who made the statement to provide whatever information they used. Once all of the facts have been checked, the rating of the statement is determined on the Truth-O-Meter. It has six ratings in decreasing levels of truthfulness from true to pants on fire. Speaking Truth to Power PolitiFact’s reason to publish is to give citizens the information they need to govern themselves in a democracy. One of the most rewarding ways PolitiFact sees its work in action and check power is in the White House Press Room. Often reporters will confront the President or the White House Press Secretary with PolitiFact analysis. Challenging a person in power with the facts is an essential way to get the truth out and keep America more honest at the highest levels. Find out more: Jon Greenberg is a senior correspondent with PolitiFact. He was part of the PolitiFact team during the 2012 presidential election and was one of the fact-checkers who launched PunditFact in 2013. Prior to that, he was executive editor at New Hampshire Public Radio and a Washington reporter for National Public Radio. He has twice won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for investigative reporting. You can follow him on Twitter @JonZGreenberg.
Conspiracism A functional conspiracy theory uses facts and rational arguments to prove that things are not as they seem. Conspiracism is a conspiracy without the theory. Conspiracism takes the form of a bold assertion without any evidence, even fake evidence, to back it up. It’s an assault on common sense. Prominent examples are “climate change is a hoax!” and “the election is rigged!” Conspiracy claims spread quickly because they require no explanation and are impossible to counter. Moreover, they ring “true enough” by playing into an emotional narrative of fear or hatred. When the president engages in conspiracism, such as the press being the enemy of the people, he imposes his reality on the nation, with violent consequences. Dangers of conspiracism One of the most devastating side effects of conspiracism is the delegitimation of democratic institutions, such as the party system. The notion of a loyal opposition party is key to democracy; without it, democracy ceases to exist. Republicans rely heavily on this delegitimating tactic to hold power, and it’s growing more rampant. Birtherism towards Obama and painting Hillary Clinton as a criminal mastermind are examples of this. By equating Democrats with traitors, as the president has explicitly done, he implies they are not a loyal opposition but enemies of the state. Once delegitimated, violence against them becomes acceptable. This is an old tactic, but one we’re seeing for the first time in the US. Protecting Reality and enacting democracy Conspiracism is destructive, delegitimating, and disorienting. However, it has no program, no policy, and no ideology. Conspiracism is now mainly used by conservatives, but it can easily travel across the political spectrum. In fact, conspiracism has already replaced ideology as the dominant political tool in the US. It is critical to speak truth to conspiracism—not for the person spreading it, who is unlikely to be persuaded—but for yourself and others. For starters, it is morally right. Speaking truth also reinforces reality, shows other truth-seekers they are not alone, and creates solidarity. Equally important is voting for politicians who emphasize facts and explain how and what their actions are accomplishing. Lawmakers help sustain democratic norms when they are transparent and make acts of government open and legible. Find out more: Nancy Rosenblum is the Harvard University Senator Joseph S. Clark Professor of Ethics in Politics and Government emerita. Her field of research is historical and contemporary political thought. She is the co-author of A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy, among other books. Prof. Rosenblum is Co-Editor of the Annual Review of Political Science and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Science. She has served as the President of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy, Vice-President of the American Political Science Association, Board Member of the Russell Sage Foundation, and Chair of the Department of Government from 2004 to 2011.
Viral Model Trammell created a viral disease model to mimic how fake news spreads. People must come in to contact with the fake information in order to be infected, just as with a virus. The more people are exposed, the more it spreads. The research shows that individuals who claim to be online for more than 10 hours a day are more susceptible to fake news. Flattening the curve of false information requires countermeasures on multiple fronts. Counter Measures Fake news is likely here to stay, but it is possible to mitigate its spread and efficacy. France effectively employed a “pre-bunking” strategy in its last presidential election. The government warned citizens that fake news would be coming from Russia, and preemptively distributed factual information to counter false narratives. Other necessary counter measures are aggressively attacking fake accounts (bots), building a reputation system to identify bad actors and reliable sources, educating schoolchildren to be vigilant consumers of the news, and cultivating a habit in citizens to never rely on a single source for information. Future of Fake News Artificial Intelligence is revolutionizing the fake news frontier. The rise of Deep Fake videos is an alarming trend because they are virtually unidentifiable as fake, and humans are much more likely to believe audio or video. AI can also glean audience predispositions and specifically target fake news to susceptible users, like Google targets ads. Coupling Deep Fakes and AI targeting with “nuanced” fake news—information that is mostly true with only certain key details changed—will make fake news a more and more trenchant problem in the months and years ahead. Find out more: Lieutenant Colonel Travis Trammell is a career U.S. Army Officer with operational experience in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Egypt. At Stanford, Travis is a Ph.D. Candidate with the Management, Science and Engineering Department, inside the Engineering Risk Research Group and a Predoctoral Fellow with the Program on Democracy and the Internet. His research focuses on quantitative risk analysis of nation state promoted fake news and influence campaigns. Dr. Marie-Elisabeth Paté-Cornell is the Burt and Deedee McMurtry Professor in the School of Engineering and Professor and Founding Chair (2000-2011) of the Department of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University. Her specialty is engineering risk analysis with application to complex systems (space, medical, offshore oil platforms, etc.). Her recent work is on the use of game theory in risk analysis with applications that have included counterterrorism, nuclear counter-proliferation problems, and cyber security. She is the author of more than one hundred publications, and the co-editor of a book on Perspectives on Complex Global Problems (2016).
Truth sandwich George Lakoff invented a construct called the Truth Sandwich in order to effectively frame the truth and negate a lie. In it, true statements act as "bread," and the lie is the "filling." A truth sandwich always starts with the truth because framing first is an advantage. Next, indicate the lie and state that it is a lie. Return immediately to the truth. The truth must always be repeated more than the lie.  Simply negating a lie without first stating the truth helps liars because it highlights the lie first. The Truth Sandwich formula of truth-lie-truth is key to combatting lies and fake news. Truthful Reporting Democratic societies depend on newspapers and the media overall to lead with the truth in their reporting and to root out lies. Everyday citizens are ill-equipped to fact-check every piece of media they consume. We need capable editors and reporters to fact-check, call out lies, and point to the consequences of the lie versus the truth. Reporters and editors should use the Truth Sandwich model to convey factual information and debunk lies to the public. High quality and truthful journalism is critical to a functioning democracy. Values Our morals depend on how we understand ourselves, our families, and our politics. Republicans and Democrats have different ideas about morality, and give their loyalty to the party they think most likely to defend their values. Illegal conduct, lies, and other usually "immoral" actions are tolerated when they are deemed as furthering a specific set of goals and morals. As long as the party is carrying out the values of its constituents, the party faithful will keep their values. Find out more: George Lakoff is Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society and is now retired Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, where he has taught since 1972. He previously taught at Harvard and the University of Michigan. He graduated from MIT in 1962 (in Mathematics and Literature) and received his Ph.D. in Linguistics from Indiana University in 1966. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller The All New Don't Think of an Elephant!, among other works, and is America's leading expert on the framing of political ideas. You can follow him on Twitter @GeorgeLakoff.
Post-Truth Post-truth is the political subordination of reality. It is not a failing of knowledge, but one of politics. Authoritarians use post-truth to corrupt our faith in the truth. The end goal is not to make citizens believe lies, but to make them so cynical and uncertain, they think they can never know the truth. Once this control over the information stream is achieved, leaders begin to have direct control over the populace. Post-truth marks the beginning of the descent into fascism for this reason. Fake News Fake news is intentionally false news. It’s a key tool in the pursuit of post-truth because it muddies the waters of reality. Once misinformation is in the public sphere, it is impossible to remove. The more fake news saturates the information market, the more jaded the target population becomes. Authoritarians can further confuse people by labeling the truth as fake news; they deny facts and demonstrate their control over their country’s information stream. Propaganda Propaganda is the most potent weapon in a post-truth leader’s arsenal. It is not designed to simply fool a population. Instead, it exists to demonstrate the government’s command of truth and that the truth is subordinate to the will of the leader. It shows the government’s ability to lie with impunity. Even if the population doesn’t believe the lie, it overwhelms their defenses, making them easier to rule. Find out more: Lee McIntyre is a Research Fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University and an Instructor in Ethics at Harvard Extension School. Formerly Executive Director of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University, he has also served as a policy advisor to the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard and as Associate Editor in the Research Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. McIntyre is the author of several books, including Post-Truth and Respecting Truth: Willful Ignorance in the Internet Age. Other work has appeared in such popular venues as the New York Times, Newsweek, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the New Statesman, the Times Higher Education Supplement, and The Humanist. You can follow Lee on Twitter @LeeCMcIntyre.
COVID & Authoritarianism COVID-19 has created an excuse for authoritarians around the world to consolidate power. Repressive regimes such as China have jailed political prisoners, and citizen journalists reporting on the pandemic have disappeared. Russia clamped down on free reporting to protect powerful warlords. Free speech is under attack in the U.S., as was the case when Captain Brett Crozier was fired for expressing concern about COVID-19 onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, a Navy nuclear powered aircraft carrier. Long term danger of surveillance Under the guise of public safety, governments are increasingly collecting our data, such as through contact tracing. It might make sense to share our personal information at this time. However, once these habits become established, they are hard to break. We could soon be subject to temperature or blood checks at border crossings, airports, or even public buildings. If governments obtain and track our medical histories, they will know much more about us than whether or not we have COVID-19. Seeing Through Trump’s Response The U.S. federal government’s response to COVID-19 utilizes the authoritarian playbook. Scientists like Dr. Fauci are muzzled while Trump spews angry rhetoric, total fabrications, and rewritten narratives to make himself look better. Trump can usually avoid repercussions for his lying, but a mounting virus death-toll is one fact-check he cannot shrug off. In time, the truth about his management of the crisis will come out thanks to media reporting, whistle-blowers, and congressional investigations. Find out more: Thomas O. Melia is Washington Director at PEN America. Previously, he served in the Obama Administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, responsible for Europe and Eurasia, south and central Asia, and the Middle East, and as Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia in the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) until January 2017. Melia is a monthly columnist for The American Interest and chair of the board of the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED). He was also a Fellow with the Human Freedom Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute, helping to lead a bipartisan initiative to reinvigorate American leadership in defense of human rights and democracy at home and abroad. 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 Tom on Twitter @thomasomelia and PEN America @penamerica.
Recently, Mila sat down with other podcast hosts from our podcast network The Democracy Group, to discuss the impact COVID-19 is having on our democracy, vulnerable populations, and more. “COVID, the pandemic … has really brought to bear not just the inequities and the inequalities, but also the necessity to have a much more active sense of democracy as a verb — democracy as an action that we can all be part of.” — Juleyka Lantigua-Williams, 70 Million Host: Richard Davies, Co-host, How Do We Fix It? @DaviesNow Guests: Mila Atmos, Host, Future Hindsight @milaatmos Juleyka Lantigua-Williams, Founder and CEO of Lantigua-Williams and Co., Creator and Executive Producer, 70 Million @JuleykaLantigua Carah Ong-Whaley, Associate Director at James Madison Center for Civic Engagement at James Madison University, Co-host, Democracy Matters @CarahOng Lee Drutman, Senior Fellow at New America, Co-host, Politics in Question @leedrutman
ExxonMobil’s Knowledge Beginning in 1959, ExxonMobil became scientifically aware of the dangers of human-caused climate change. By the 1970s-80s, they had a detailed, precise understanding of climate change. Their peer-reviewed and well-respected internal research gave them access to government meetings and academic conferences. In turn, knowledge about the status of the science and policies helped guide and inform business decisions. Internal memos show that in response to the scientific evidence, executives chose to publicly spread uncertainty and denial. Advertorials ExxonMobil invented the advertorial, a paid advertisement that is written and presented like an editorial. This content ran every Thursday on the New York Times Opinion page beginning in 1972. Its longevity and proliferation make it one of the largest propaganda campaigns in history. Approximately 80% of the company’s advertorials denied, obfuscated, or encouraged skepticism about climate science. During the same time that these public climate denial ads ran, the company’s peer-reviewed academic literature accepted and acknowledged that global warming is real, human-caused, and solvable. Scientist-Activist Supran is a scientist and an activist, calling for MIT to divest from fossil fuels and organizing the first major scientist protest against the Trump administration. He believes that speaking truth to power about climate change is his civic duty, especially because he is a scientist. He quotes Einstein, who would agree: “Those who have the privilege to know, have the duty to act.” Due to a long history of interest group pushing academics and scholars to be impartial, many scientists are reluctant to be activists. The stakes are too high for silence. Trustworthy climate news sources: Climate Feedback InsideClimate News The Guardian - Environment The New York Times – Climate and Environment Find out more: Geoffrey Supran is a Research Associate in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University. Working alongside Professor Naomi Oreskes, he investigates the history of global warming politics; particularly the climate communications, denial, and delay tactics of fossil fuel interests. He is also a Postdoctoral Affiliate with Professor Jessika Trancik at the Institute for Data, Systems and Society at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Supran’s academic publications include the first ever peer-reviewed analysis of ExxonMobil’s 40-year history of climate change communications, which demonstrated that the company has misled the public. It was the seventh most talked-about climate change article of 2017, with global news coverage reaching a potential audience of half a billion people, and it was cited by Anderson Cooper during CNN's 2019 U.S. Democratic presidential Climate Town Hall. Supran has briefed U.S. Senators and Governors, testified as an expert witness to European (EU) Parliament and the Philippines Commission on Human Rights, and co-authored several amicus briefs in support of climate litigation. You can follow him on Twitter @GeoffreySupran.
Legacy of Secrecy Nuclear technology has a long history of secrecy, cover-up, and deceit from military officials and government leaders, starting with the creation of nuclear weapons. Secrecy has hampered scientists in conducting rigorous research and data collection. They are often faced with studying the effects of radiation after an accident, which means they lack baseline data for comparison. This is most notable in Chernobyl, where the surrounding exclusion zone is now teeming with wildlife. Scientists disagree whether the detected DNA changes in the animals are due to radiation or to natural evolution, and how harmful it is. A combination of disinformation, a lack of understanding, and fundamental disagreements about the danger posed by radiation feeds public skepticism of nuclear technology. Dangerous Waste Nuclear technology's longest-lasting legacy is radioactive waste. It produces plutonium, a highly radioactive isotope that takes thousands of years to decay. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that the world currently has about 550 tons of plutonium. Most of the waste sits in silos designed for temporary storage, which is expensive. We still need to find a way to treat, move, and bury it in a permanent storage space that is deep underground. The immense cost of waste management is one of the main reasons that nuclear reactors are being decommissioned. After deciding to abandon nuclear power, Germany is now struggling with its waste. Some of it is stored in salt mines that are not secure enough in the long term, and some is in the UK for treatment. It’s unclear if Germany will take back the nuclear waste that is overseas. How the world will eventually safely maintain nuclear waste is an open question. Nuclear Disarmament The heart of Pearce’s opposition to nuclear energy is the danger of nuclear proliferation. The creation of nuclear weapons is a Faustian pact that poses a vast and unnecessary risk to the world. The hydrogen bombs that were developed after WWII would kill millions of people instantly, which are now in silos all over the world, ready to be deployed. He argues that nuclear weapons are not a security measure, but instead create global insecurity. Every year they lie dormant, the chances they fall into the wrong hands increases. Nuclear weapons disarmament needs to be our highest priority, and should be achievable in the next 30 – 40 years. The only way to do so is by eliminating atomic technology, which also means eliminating nuclear power. Find out more: Fred Pearce is a freelance author and journalist based in London. He has reported on the environment, science, and development issues from 88 countries over the past 30 years. Trained as a geographer, he has been an environment consultant of New Scientist magazine since 1992. He writes regularly for The Guardian newspaper, including the weekly Greenwash column, and published a 12-part investigation of the 'Climategate' emails affair at the University of East Anglia. He is also a regular contributor to Yale University's prestigious e360 website. Fred is the author of numerous books, including Fallout: Disasters, Lies, and the Legacy of the Nuclear Age, and The Last Generation: How Nature Will Take Her Revenge for Climate Change. His books have been translated into at least 14 languages.
The Pacific Ocean is Safe After the Fukushima reactor accident, radiation leaked into the Pacific Ocean, sparking global worry. In the months after the accident, levels were high, but not high enough to cause marine life die-off. For the last five years, all fish caught off Japan has been below the radiation thresholds for consumption. Radioactive cesium levels have been low since 2014, and levels of radiation off the California coast are lower today than they were in the 1960s when the US detonated hydrogen bombs in the Marshall Islands. Swimming in the Pacific for eight hours every day is less risky than one dental x-ray. Our Radioactive Ocean A crowdsourced science campaign called Our Radioactive Ocean was created to measure ocean radiation at various points in the Pacific. Interested citizens collected ocean samples and sent them to Woods Hole to be analyzed. The campaign became a hit, and more than 300 data points have been plotted up and down the West Coast. More than 1 million people have visited their site. Once citizen scientists got involved in the project, they wanted to learn more and engaged their communities. Communities, like Laguna Beach, began to band together to pay for samples. The data used is credible and has resulted in at least one scientific paper. Thanks to the public nature of the effort, new data points are continuing to be analyzed today. Radioactive World Radiation is a naturally occurring phenomenon, and we live with it every day. Even without human interference, the ocean still has radiation because of dissolved radioactive agents found in salt. Radiation in small doses is natural and perfectly healthy. Living at a high altitude exposes you to cosmic radiation and flying from New York to Japan gives you a dose of radiation much higher than background levels. Living in New England exposes you to elevated levels of radiation thanks to the large amounts of granite, which releases it. Many foods, like bananas, have trace amounts of radiation. Getting a dental x-ray or CAT Scan gives you a dose of radiation. We live with radiation and should not be afraid of it, except in extremely high doses. Find out more: Ken Buesseler is a marine radiochemist who studies the fate and distribution of radioactive elements in the ocean at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. His lab has also been active in response to radioactivity released from disasters such as the impact of radioactivity released from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, and from earlier sources such as Chernobyl or atomic weapons testing at the Marshall Islands. He created the Our Radioactive Ocean project, which uses citizen scientists to measure radiation levels on the West coast of United States. He also leads WHOI's Café Thorium, which analyzes marine samples for both natural and artificial radionuclides. You can follow him on Twitter @cafe_thorium.
Nuclear Power is Impractical Building nuclear power plants is extremely costly and time-consuming; projects are often plagued by cost overruns and construction delays. Between permitting, planning, and construction, it takes 10-19 years for a plant to become operational. To meet our climate goals, we need to transition 80% of our energy to carbon-free solutions by 2030. From a logistical standpoint, nuclear cannot become our carbon-free energy source because it will arrive too late. In addition, aging nuclear power plants become more expensive to maintain and operate, which necessitate additional subsidies. Maintenance requirements shut down the whole plant and energy production goes to zero during that time. Nuclear Technology Risks In addition to the practical barriers of building a nuclear grid, nuclear technology has inherent risks. Some of the radioactive nuclear waste takes hundreds of thousands of years to decay, posing long term problems for safe maintenance. The technology can and has been used for weapons proliferation. The catastrophic risk of a nuclear reactor meltdown is currently at 1.5%, which is astronomical. In comparison, we would not accept a 1.5% chance of planes crashing. The cost of cleanup for the Fukushima disaster alone has exceeded $500 billion, or more than $1 billion per reactor worldwide, which makes nuclear much more costly than many acknowledge. Electrifying our lives with renewable energy Transitioning to clean renewable energy and electrifying all sectors of the economy can achieve a savings in energy demand of 57%. The heating and cooling of buildings can be achieved through heat pumps; electric cars can replace fossil fuel models; high-temperature electric processes can be used in heavy industry. Clean energy electricity can be generated through large concentrated solar farms, offshore wind power, geothermal, and hydroelectric power. Sources like solar and wind can come online much faster than nuclear, cutting emissions more quickly and stay clean forever. Once electrification is widespread, it becomes easier to store excess power with batteries, hydroelectric reservoirs, and gravitational storage. Find out more: Mark Z. Jacobson is Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Senior Fellow of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, and Director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program at Stanford University. His career has focused on better understanding air pollution and global warming problems and developing large-scale clean, renewable energy solutions to them. Toward that end, he has developed and applied three-dimensional atmosphere-biosphere-ocean computer models and solvers to simulate air pollution, weather, climate, and renewable energy. He has also developed roadmaps to transition countries, states, cities, and towns to 100% clean, renewable energy for all purposes and computer models to examine grid stability in the presence of high penetrations of renewable energy. You can follow him on Twitter @mzjacobson.
Stephen Pimpare is a nationally recognized expert on poverty and U.S. social policy. Hedebunks the idea that COVID is the great equalizer, and explains why immediate cash transfers are critical to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on the poor. Joe Huston is Managing Director of GiveDirectly, the first and largest non-profit organization that gives cash directly to people in poverty. He shares how they are reaching the needy and providing thousands with critical funds right now. Maria Foscarinis is the Founder and Director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. We talk about successful strategies to house the homeless and give them cash, as well as special funding to address homelessness in the CARES Act. Robin Steinberg is the founder and CEO of The Bail Project. Her organization is doing the immense work to release as many Americans held on bail as possible at this time, what states are doing to help, and how decarceration is now quickly gaining traction around the country. Find out more: Stephen Pimpare is a nationally recognized expert on poverty, homelessness, and U.S. Social policy. He is also a Faculty Fellow at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire and teaches courses on American Politics and Public Policy. His most recent book is Ghettos, Tramps, and Welfare Queens: Down & Out on the Silver Screen, a history of poverty and homelessness in the movies. Follow him on Twitter @stephenpimpare. Joe Huston is the Managing Director of GiveDirectly, the first and largest non-profit organization that gives cash directly to people in poverty and that works to reshape the way we think about international donations. Follow GiveDirectly @GiveDirectly and Joe @JHust Maria Foscarinisis the founder and executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, and has advocated for solutions to homelessness at the national level since 1985. Follow her on Twitter @MariaFoscarinis. Robin Steinberg is the founder and CEO of The Bail Project, an unprecedented national effort to combat mass incarceration by transforming the pretrial system in the U.S. Follow The Bail Project on Twitter @bailproject.
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.
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Comments (7)

Christina Persyn

y

May 27th
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Mahan

A powerful episode. thankyou all

May 18th
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Sharon Reimer

Let's do it!!!!

Apr 10th
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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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