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Climate Crisis: Our Ecological Dysfunction Has a Marketing Problem (and it’s not Michael Moore)

I think the big crisis of our times is that our minds have been manipulated to give power to illusions. — Vandana Shiva

I first heard of Jeff Gibbs’ contentious film Planet of the Humans (POH) sometime last year. Like millions of others, I viewed it just recently. Over the past week, the scathingly negative reviews I discovered disheartened but did not surprise me. While the film may present outdated statistics about so-called renewable energy technologies (which should have been revised to reflect current trends), while it may clumsily cobble together disparate aspects of the ecological effects of our species on the planet, and while it utilizes what may be characterized as calculating imagery to evoke emotional resonance (as all films do), the crux of Gibbs’ argument should not be discarded and deserves discussion: that we cannot achieve ecological sustainability without addressing the role of humanity’s overproduction and overconsumption.
It seems to me that people who watch this f…

Our Way of Life is the Public Health Crisis

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Years ago, when I taught science to junior high school students, I would sometimes make an offhand remark to the effect of “Animals like us….”One or more students would respond, “Miss, we’re not animals!”I doubt my adolescent students were alone in misunderstanding their place in the biological kingdom.
The disconnect between humanity and the natural world, to which every living thing belongs, characterizes all industrialized nations. Our Western prioritization of artificial systems (economy) over natural systems (ecology) laid the groundwork for our perilous conditions. We were in crisis before this novel coronavirus pandemic, and we will continue to be in crisis after. It’s a classic tragedy, with our hubris and ignorance leading to the near-term extinction of our species, because our values and paradigms remain rooted in fantasy instead of reality.
Ecological degradation for economic growth
We should all find it ironic that the economic condition which likely caused zoonotic diseas…

The Climate Emergency Needs No Holidays

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“People, so the thought runs, ought to be discontented, and it is our job to multiply our wants and not simply to increase our enjoyment of the things we have already.” George Orwell, “Some Thoughts on the Common Toad” (1946)

For the past twenty five years or more, I generally have not celebrated holidays, at least not in any traditional sense. There are a variety of reasons that I opted out of these festivities, some deeply personal. Mostly, I could not abide the existential emptiness of trying to connect with others or achieve happiness through consumerism.
But more, in committing my life to the causes of ecological sustainability, environmental health, and justice, the maintenance of any modicum of integrity precluded my participation in the conspicuous consumption of resources and energy as well as the needless generation of excessive waste that all holidays entail. I found solidarity with those who had withdrawn before me, who promoted Buy Nothing Day in response to the massive c…

A Tale of Twins: Why the U.S. Needs Universal Single-Payer Medical Care (i.e., Medicare for All)

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A man, just a few years into his retirement, wakes up one day to notice some peculiar health symptoms. While he has always been in generally good health, something feels abnormal. He has severe lower back pain as well as an odd cough and a bit of difficulty breathing. He can’t seem to find a comfortable position to sleep, and he just does not feel right at all. Deciding that he is not himself and that his symptoms are definitely unusual (even alarming) he heads to the local emergency room. From there he is admitted to the intensive care unit and, after a barrage of tests, finds out that he had a pulmonary embolism. He is stabilized, monitored, and given a course of anti-coagulant (blood thinning) medication. Within a few days, he is on his way, prescription in hand and back to his normal routine.
Man number one lives modestly but comfortably with a pension and comprehensive health insurance. He does not think twice about heading to the hospital when he feels he needs care, and he vi…