Tag: politics

2016: A year to remember

The year the corals died …

Bleached elkhorn coral. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.
Bleached elkhorn coral. Photo courtesy NOAA.

After spending several months abroad in the autumn of 2015 I returned to the U.S. just in time for Christmas and New Years, as well as the lead-up to the Super Bowl. At the same time, the presidential campaign was starting to wind up, with Trump already spreading his poisoned rhetoric and the Democrats hopelessly divided and apparently unable to offer any meaningful positive message to counter the GOP hatefest.

But what I really noticed is that most Americans weren’t actually paying much attention to the unfolding election. The GOP primary was just another sideshow in the circus of consumerism and entertainment that has become of the mainstay of American civic life. To me, it felt like what a decaying Rome must have been experiencing as the empire waned, the masses entertained by excessive spectacles in the Coliseum, while the ruling class made its last-ditch effort to exploit society for short-term gain. It all crystalized for me in late January, when I saw three stories juxtaposed in the Denver Post: one on the Flint water crisis, a second on Trump’s ascendancy and a third on the armed takeover of a wildlife preserve by the Bundy malcontents. Taken together, the three articles represent the decline of American civilization. I wrote about it here.

In the West, the fracturing of the consensus on American values has often played out in the realm of public lands management, and nowhere is this more apparent than in discussions of endangered species. I saw this trend reinforced in mid-January at a Denver meeting on wolves, where it became clear that, for all the efforts that have been made, the reactionary opposition to predator restoration still prevails in the establishment. More in this in my wolf restoration post on Medium.

Another story that marked 2016 was the global debate over refugees. In February, human rights groups announced that, in the first six weeks of the year, 80,000 people had already made the journey to Europe, and more than 400 had already died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Continue reading “2016: A year to remember”

Around the world with Summit Voice

Links to our climate and international news reporting …

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How much longer will the cryosphere last? @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

Not as much content as usual on Summit Voice this week, but that’s because we were busy reporting elsewhere, with a few noteworthy stories. For example, Austria is holding a presidential election tomorrow (Sunday, Dec. 4) and the election of Donald Trump became an issue in the last few weeks of the campaign. I co-reported a story on the election with the European bureau chief of the Christian Science Monitor, including an interview with an American expat involved in the campaign.

Also published did a couple of pieces for Pacific Standard, including a photo essay on the Earth’s vanishing cryosphere, and an in-depth story about how the incoming Trump administration could undermine the integrity of science-based decision making in government agencies. Another article from a couple of weeks ago in Pacific Standard took a look at whether the world can still achieve the goals of the Paris climate agreement if the U.S. withdraws.

And at InsideClimate News, I reported on potential climate change links to the devastating wildfires in the Southeast, as well as on a new study suggesting that heat-trapping greenhouse gas pollution is shifting the track of Atlantic hurricanes to the north, where they are more likely to hit the Northeast coast.

I also took a close look at Germany’s ambitious new climate action plan, which aims to decarbonize the country’s economy by 2050. Absent U.S. leadership on climate policy, other major western industrial countries will have to lead by example.

Sunday set: Eyes wide open

Warning signs …

By Bob Berwyn

The Summit Voice Sunday Set is  set aside for scenic landscape shots or nature photo essays, which is usually a nice break from the previous week’s news. But today we have a public service announcement instead. Travel as we know it is threatened by a rising tide of right-wing, nationalistic populism around the world.

Living in the new political post-factual, post-truth era is going to require journalists to take their game to a much higher level if they want to regain credibility with readers who have come to distrust any source outside their immediate cybernews bubble. Travel writers could be a big part of the much-needed journalism revival. Nobody is in a better position to help show how interconnected the world has become in the past few decades. It’s an illusion to think that what happens in one country won’t affect many others. Continue reading “Sunday set: Eyes wide open”

Twitter analysis tells volumes about climate politics

Many senators stuck in a social media echo chamber

Staff Report

University researchers took a deep dive into the world of social media to reach some interesting conclusions about climate change and political beliefs. After analyzing the Twitter streams of U.S. senators, the scientists said Democrats were three times more likely than Republicans to follow research-oriented science organizations, including those covering global warming.

The paper, published in the journal Climate Change Responses, reinforces that fact that climate science has inexplicably become a partisan issue, but with a ray of hope. On the GOP side of the aisle, 15 senators displayed a draw to science and thus a way to bring scientific information to those not receiving it on their own.

“Increasingly, people are using Facebook and Twitter as a means of getting news, which determines what information they are exposed to,” said Brian Helmuth, a marine biologist and an ecologist at Northeastern University’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs. Continue reading “Twitter analysis tells volumes about climate politics”

New UN support network aims at protecting refugee children

‘We are concerned about the welfare of unaccompanied boys and girls on the move and unprotected across Europe …’

New family service centers are being established to ease the plight of refugee and migrant children in southeastern Europe.
New family service centers are being established to ease the plight of refugee and migrant children in southeastern Europe.
Refugees from Syria wait to gain entry to Austria at the Spielfeld border crossing from Slovenia in November. 2015. @bberwyn photo.
Refugees from Syria wait to gain entry to Austria at the Spielfeld border crossing from Slovenia in November. 2015. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

With women and children making up a growing percentage of refugees and migrants in southeastern Europe, the UN Refugee Agency and UNICEF are setting up special “blue dot” support centers for children and families along the most frequently used migration routes.

In February, women and children made up nearly 60 per cent of sea arrivals compared to 27 per cent in September 2015. The new centers aim to identify and protect children and adolescents traveling alone, and reunite them with family wherever possible, depending on their best interests. Children are especially prone to risks from sickness, trauma, violence, exploitation and trafficking. Continue reading “New UN support network aims at protecting refugee children”

President Obama wants to close illegal Guantanamo prison

President Barack Obama.
President Barack Obama.

New plan to shut detention facility will require congressional action

Staff Report

President Obama wants to turn the page on a dark chapter of American history by ending the illegal detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Obama said maintaining the prison helps terrorist groups recruit new members and undermines relationships with allies.

The U.S. has held captives at the naval base on Cuba for more than 10 years. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, more than 800 people have been imprisoned there without due process, including 21 children and individuals as old as 89. Continue reading “President Obama wants to close illegal Guantanamo prison”

40 percent of Americans think security is more important than civil liberty

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Freedom? Or security?

“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

Staff Report

By all historical accounts, Benjamin Franklin always chose his words carefully, and while his quote on liberty and security appears to have mutated a bit over the years, the essence of what he said remains true.

But those words apparently ring hollow with many Americans, who now believe it’s OK for the government to sacrifice freedoms to fight terrorism, according to a new national survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

And about half of Americans think it is acceptable to allow warrantless government analysis of internet activities and communications — even of American citizens — in order to keep an eye out for suspicious activity, but about 3 in 10 are against this type of government investigation. Continue reading “40 percent of Americans think security is more important than civil liberty”