Carbon Fiddles While the Planet Burns

By David Levy.

A milestone on the road to catastrophic climate change was reached last Thursday, May 9th, when the Mauna Loa research center in Hawaii recorded atmospheric CO2 levels above 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time. The level during pre-industrial times was around 280 ppm, and has been rising at an accelerating pace due to burning fossil fuels and clearing forests. For the last 400,000 years or so, CO2 levels have fluctuated between about 180 ppm, at the depths of ice ages, and 280 ppm during relatively short warm periods, or interglacials (see graphic). The last time CO2 levels reached 400 ppm was at least 3 million years ago, a much warmer world where sea levels were 60-80 feet higher. Continue reading

Reflections on the Boston Marathon tragic events

Introduction by Marc Lavine.

Like all people of conscience, we are deeply saddened by the Boston marathon bombings. As educators and Bostonians, these events affected us deeply and personally. One of our former students was among the dead, as was a child from the neighborhood where our campus is located. One of Boston’s many international students perished as did a committed campus police officer. Many nursing students from our school were among the first responders. Several of us know people who were injured or have personal connections to the marathon. Continue reading

Crowdsourced social order in Boston: technology replaces relationships?

By Mary Still.

Particular public crises become etched in the collective conscious: the Arab spring, in which masses mobilized by internet technology revolted against government regimes, is such an example.  September 11 is another. Hurricane Katrina, with its images of poor people floating on makeshift rafts, is a third. The Boston Marathon bombings appear to have a similar hold on our psyches, in part for the vividness of the bombing images, but also for the ensuing manhunt, an unprecedented example of swarm intelligence facilitated by technology. The uniquely inter-connected citizenry became a self-organized army that rapidly organized to restore social order. Continue reading

Terrorists: Some you see, some you don’t

By Banu Ozkazanc-Pan.

The recent bombings and acts of terror in Boston left hundreds wounded, dozens disabled, and four dead. These events elicited a spectrum of responses including outrage, fear, elation, grieving, and nationalism and reignited debate over ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ immigrants. Such reactions to terrorism may seem natural but raise interesting questions–why are the events in Boston conceptualized as terrorists attacking the U.S. when the unceremonious death or capture of other mass murderers in the U.S. do not invoke nationalism?  Why did people chant “USA, USA, USA” in response to the death of Bin Laden and after the capture of Dzokhar Tsarnaev but not after the capture of Jared Lee Loughner? Are these events equivalent? To understand these reactions, we have to consider why certain people are labeled terrorists, how violent attacks are seen in the U.S., and how assumptions about terrorism lead to calls for armed interventions in different parts of the world and at home.  One way to examine these questions is to focus on identities. Continue reading

The Fashion Trap: Why Fairtrade Works in Coffee but not in Clothing

By Stephan Manning.

The recent collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh was devastating. Over 400 mostly young female workers died; over a hundred are still missing. An ‘accident’ that would be unthinkable in the U.S. or Western Europe. Prior concerns about the building conditions (including a large crack) had been ignored – by the owner, by government officials and global buyers. Whether or not clients, such as Benetton, Cato Fashions, Primark, Mango and Joe Fresh, actually knew about the situation is not important. The fact however that they did not make sure – even after a series of recent fires with hundreds of casualties in similar factories, such as the Tazreen factory – that basic safety standards many of us take for granted are met and followed up on is revealing. After decades of protest and campaigns by ILO and international NGOs, such as the Clean Clothes Campaign, it seems that the global fashion industry has not even managed to secure very basic health and safety conditions for garment workers in major producing countries. Continue reading