Earthly/Geo/Astro · Human-ities

After Catastrophe

For a lesson in the compounding effects of surprising events, go back to a March afternoon in 2011: A powerful earthquake hits 40 miles off the eastern coast of Japan. The country’s building codes ensure that most structures can cope with even this major stress, but a resulting tsunami pounds the shore, unexpectedly breaches the sea walls, and ends up killing most of the more than 15,800 who die in this disaster.

The wave also knocks out the cooling system at a major nuclear-power plant situated on the coast, causing a meltdown. In time, the prime minister admits that the accident could have gotten out of control, forcing the abandonment of Tokyo, which would have crippled Japan. Citizens of the resource-poor country advocate abandoning nuclear power; analysts say that relying on imported coal or liquified natural gas could raise Japan’s carbon emissions by 37 percent. The meltdown hobbles a renaissance for nuclear power in the United States, and miscommunication about the disaster leads to upheaval in the Japanese government.

The quake, tsunami, and meltdown also affect an area known for manufacturing products vital to the world economy, notably cars and other vehicles, and those plants are shuttered for months. Twenty percent of the world’s silicon wafers come from this area, and electronics companies, which rely on just-in-time delivery of parts, brace for shortages. The meltdown also causes a brief worldwide panic about radioactive materials that might hitch onto Japanese exports.

Excerpt from an article written by Scott Carlson at The Chronicle Review. Continue HERE

Human-ities · Social/Politics

Radical Centrism: Uniting the Radical Left and the Radical Right

Pragmatic Centrism Is Crony Capitalism.

Neoliberal crony capitalism is driven by a grand coalition between the pragmatic centre-left and the pragmatic centre-right. Crony capitalist policies are always justified as the pragmatic solution. The range of policy options is narrowed down to a pragmatic compromise that maximises the rent that can be extracted by special interests. Instead of the government providing essential services such as healthcare and law and order, we get oligopolistic private healthcare and privatised prisons. Instead of a vibrant and competitive private sector with free entry and exit of firms we get heavily regulated and licensed industries, too-big-to-fail banks and corporate bailouts.

There’s no better example of this dynamic than the replacement of the public option in Obamacare by a ‘private option’. As Glenn Greenwald argues, “whatever one’s views on Obamacare were and are: the bill’s mandate that everyone purchase the products of the private health insurance industry, unaccompanied by any public alternative, was a huge gift to that industry.” Public support is garnered by presenting the private option as the pragmatic choice, the compromise option, the only option. To middle class families who fear losing their healthcare protection due to unemployment, the choice is framed as either the private option or nothing.

In a recent paper (h/t Chris Dillow), Pablo Torija asks the question ‘Do Politicians Serve the One Percent?’ and concludes that they do. This is not a surprising result but what is more interesting is his research on the difference between leftwing and rightwing governments which he summarises as follows: “In 2009 center-right parties maximized the happiness of the 100th-98th richest percentile and center-left parties the 100th-95th richest percentile. The situation has evolved from the seventies when politicians represented, approximately, the median voter”.

Excerpt from a text written by Ashwin at Macroeconomic Resilience. Continue HERE. Image via Wiki

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The Stockholm Resilience Centre

Stockholm Resilience Centre advances research on the governance of social-ecological systems with a special emphasis on resilience – the ability to deal with change and continue to develop.

The aim is to create a world-leading transdisciplinary research center that advances the understanding of complex social-ecological systems and generates new and elaborated insights and means for the development of management and governance practices. The new center will advise policymakers from all over the world, and develop innovative collaboration with relevant actors on local social-ecological systems to the global policy arena.

“In order to solve the great environmental problems of the world, we need to change course. Our hope is that the Stockholm Resilience Centre will contribute essential knowledge that is needed to steer development onto a sustainable path,” says Johan Rockström, Executive Director of Stockholm Resilience Centre.

“We want to build a unique transdisciplinary research environment where innovative ideas can flourish. By combining new forms of cooperation with a holistic perspective, we hope to generate the insights that are needed to strengthen societies’ and the ecosystems’ capacities to meet a world which spins faster and faster,” says Carl Folke, Science Director of Stockholm Resilience Centre.

Text and Images via Stockholm Resilience Centre

Architectonic · Human-ities · Social/Politics

THE HOUSE THAT HERMAN BUILT: What kind of house does a man who has lived in 6′ x 9′ box for 30 years dream of?

For over thirty-eight years Herman Joshua Wallace has been in Solitary Confinement in Louisiana’s State Prison System. Solitary Confinement, or Closed Cell Restriction [CCR] at The Louisiana State Penitentiary consists of a minimum of 23 hours a day in a six-foot-by-nine-foot cell. As a member of the Black Panther Party, Herman Wallace has been isolated to the darkest places in the United State’s largest penitentiary. Specifically because of his political beliefs, he has been forced to endure the worst conditions of Solitary Confinement for nearly four decades.

In 2003 artist Jackie Sumell asked Herman a very simple question:

The answer to this question has manifested a remarkable project principled in social sculpture, community outreach, benevolence and the ultimate power of the imagination called THE HOUSE THAT HERMAN BUILT.

This extraordinary collaboration has gained international recognition through its exhibition and corresponding book. This enormous project has been shown dozens of times in over 7 countries, garnishing accolades from the harshest critics. A documentary is being produced and directed by independent film maker Angad Bhalla. As Herman & Jackie transition from building a virtual home through an art exhibition to building Herman’s actual dream home in (his birth city) New Orleans, the growing community of support has increased infinitely. THTHB has formal alliances with various community groups, collectives, and committees. MAISON ORION, a Los Angeles based design studio, is providing architectural support for this project to see that it is realized with faithfulness to Herman’s vision with the absolute minimum of modifications. Once the land is acquired, construction can begin.

The House That Herman Built is a testament to the human imagination, an illustration of kindness, an art project, and an introduction to history that highlights institutionalized racism in the United States. Ultimately, Herman’s House is a monument to resilience, courage, creativity and magnanimity. Herman Wallace & Jackie Sumell have committed their lives to building it. Please join us on this journey.

Text and Images via