Community Articles from 2018
Survival of the Richest
by Douglas Rushkoff
Posted July 17, 2018
Last year, I got invited to a super-deluxe private resort to deliver a keynote speech to what I assumed would be a hundred or so investment bankers. It was by far the largest fee I had ever been offered for a talk — about half my annual professor’s salary — all to deliver some insight on the subject of “the future of technology.”
I’ve never liked talking about the future. The Q&A sessions always end up more like parlor games, where I’m asked to opine on the latest technology buzzwords as if they were ticker symbols for potential investments: blockchain, 3D printing, CRISPR. The audiences are rarely interested in learning about these technologies or their potential impacts beyond the binary choice of whether or not to invest in them. But money talks, so I took the gig. More…
The Dire Consequences of Giving Private Companies Responsibility for Ailing Public Water Systems
by Sharon Lerner and Leana Hosea
Posted July 14, 2018
The lead crises in Flint and Pittsburgh have many unfortunate parallels. Residents of both cities unknowingly drank water with high levels of the potent neurotoxin, which has long-term health consequences. The rise in lead levels was preceded in both cases by a miscalculation related to chemicals used to control corrosion in water pipes. And in both places, officials have faced criticism for their inaction and failure to alert the public.
The two lead crises have another important thing in common: a private water company named Veolia. The world’s largest supplier of water services, Veolia had contracts with both Flint and Pittsburgh around the time that lead levels rose in their drinking water. And in both places, Veolia wound up in legal disputes over its role in the crises. More…
How Systems Collapse
by Charles Hugh Smith
Posted July 13, 2018
This is how systems collapse: faith in the visible surface of abundance reigns supreme, and the fragility of the buffers goes unnoticed.
I often discuss systems and systemic collapse. The key concepts here are stability and buffers. Though complex systems are never static, but they can be stable: that is, they ebb and flow within relatively stable boundaries supported by reserves, i.e. buffers.
In ecosystems, this ebb and flow is expressed in feedback loops between the weather, environment and plant/animal species which inhabit the ecosystem. Ideal weather/food conditions may spark a rise in an insect population, for example, which then enables an increase in insect-predator populations (fish, birds, frogs, etc.) which then increases the consumption of the insects and reduces the impact of the higher insect population. More…
Mainstream Media vs. the Age of Information
by Ethan Indigo Smith
Posted July 12, 2018
The world is on the precipice of change. The information age has the power to challenge the structures of the status quo. It even has the potential to eliminate the influence of money over the election of our leaders, since all candidates can be offered equal communication platforms which enable them all (and their policies) equally, so that those with the best ideas are elected and not the wealthiest corporate-funded noisemaker who can buy support and advertising time on corporate media.
Indeed, there are so many ways that the information age could completely shift the oligarchical collectivism of the power structures of the world in favor of individuals instead of institutions. So, instead of expanding our reach of information – instead of inspiring individuals to dig for truth and research for realness – the institutional powers-that-be are constricting the field of information.
This is particularly obvious with recent challenges to net neutrality — a neutrality that 87% of average Americans support, but which institutions are nonetheless seeking to destroy. More…
At Power Plant Approval Meeting, Paid Actors Spoke While Residents Were Locked Out
By Emilie Karrick Surrusco
Posted July 11, 2018
We’ve asked the Louisiana attorney general to investigate a New Orleans City Council meeting where actors were paid to speak in favor of placing a gas plant in a neighborhood that didn’t want it there.
Observe and participate. Two very important words to the people of New Orleans East.
A news report this week revealed that their constitutional right to observe and participate in public meetings—specifically, meetings where the New Orleans City Council approved the building of a dirty gas-fired power plant in their neighborhood—had been put up for sale.
The price? 60 to 200 “dollarydoos.” More…
Chase Says It’s Fighting Climate Change. So Why Is It Financing the Fossil Fuel Industry?
By Kate Aronoff
Posted July 11, 2018
JPMorgan Chase (“Chase”) talks a big game on climate change. The Wall Street bank has committed to becoming entirely reliant on renewable energy by 2020, and facilitating $200 billion in clean financing—of low-carbon fuel sources—by 2025. “Business must play a leadership role in creating solutions that protect the environment and grow the economy,” CEO Jamie Dimon said in a statement announcing the pledge last summer.
As protesters at the company’s Texas shareholder meeting last week pointed out, Chase is leading on an entirely different front: financing fossil fuel infrastructure. There have been ongoing efforts over the last several years for universities and pension funds to drop their investments in fossil fuels. Activists fighting mountaintop removal coal mining successfully targeted banks like PNC to stop financing the practice, and the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline spawned its own push against Bank of America.
This most recent wave of energy in the fossil fuel divestment movement—targeting banks’ financing of fossil fuel infrastructure, in particular—was spurred by the momentum generated in the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). More…
Why Public Banking is the End Goal of the Divestment Movement
by Phoenix Goodman
Posted July 10, 2018
Something big is starting to happen in the world of activism. Grassroots campaigns are beginning to coalesce into coherent, focused missions with definable outcomes.
The Divest campaign is a classic example of how the People can have a tangible effect on society by speaking the language of the dominating classes: money.
Divestment is what it sounds like: removing public investments from corporate institutions, and repurposing them into organizations which will benefit the common good. This means leveraging the collective will through mass individual actions to force the perpetrators of corrupt and unscrupulous behavior to directly lose profits; in essence, to divest is to boycott. More…
The Fiber Future is Cooperative: Policy Brief On Rural Cooperative Fiber Deployment
by Hannah Trostle
Posted July 7, 2018
Rural communities across the United States are already building the Internet infrastructure of the future. Using a 20th century model, rural America is finding a way to tap into high-speed Internet service: electric and telephone cooperatives are bringing next-generation, Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) networks to their service territories.
Farmers first created utility cooperatives because large private companies did not recognize the importance of connecting rural America to electricity or telephone service. Now, these cooperatives are building fiber infrastructure.
Almost all of the 260 telephone cooperatives and 60 electric cooperatives are involved in fiber network projects. As of June 2016, 87 cooperatives offer residential gigabit service (1,000 Mbps) to their members. More…
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