Facing the Rising Seas: Can we Learn from Climate Mitigation?

David L. LevyUMass Boston.

It’s approaching three years since hurricane Sandy killed over 230 people in 8 countries, and wreaked havoc on the New York-New Jersey region – and put climate adaptation firmly on the national agenda. Sandy, which disrupted at least 450,000 businesses in New York and New Jersey, illustrated how cascading impacts not only damage property but also disrupt businesses for extended periods of time, due to the interaction of power and communication outages, infrastructure damage, and supply chain disruptions. These complex interactions were not adequately understood or anticipated. The reinsurance company Munich Re has estimated insured losses at $25 billion and total losses of at least $50 billion in the US from Sandy. Looking to the future, the 2011 Mass Climate Adaptation report notes that: “Sea level rise of 0.65 meters (26 inches) in Boston by 2050 could damage assets worth an estimated $463 billion”. Cities and states have begun to devote significant resources to planning for sea level rise, more frequent and intense storms, and more intense heat and drought. In one design-for-climate-change scenario, Boston would be transformed into an American Venice.

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Does the Sharing Economy Reproduce Inequality?

By Eliad Shmuel.

The magazine Fast Company recently published an article with the provocative title: “Can The Sharing Economy End Discrimination?” The author, David Mandell, is CEO of the office sharing marketplace PivotDesk and promoter of a new trend now everybody talks about: the sharing economy. Like David Mandell, many believe that millennials choose access over ownership, and that services such as Airbnb and Uber are democratizing the hospitality and private transportation business. This is because, rather than relying on corporate power, branding and expensive marketing, users determine themselves, through ratings, whether they like and thus recommend certain service providers or not. Likewise, providers, e.g. of Airbnb apartments, choose users based on their ratings. Ratings and reviews may vary, but on average, according to Mandell, they provide fair and objective feedback. Each participant of the sharing economy has thus equal chances of becoming popular among others – no matter what educational or social background, what race, religion, gender or sexual preference. But is that really so?

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Of Davos, Luxury Boats and Downward Spirals

By Suhaib Riaz.

At the recently concluded gathering of world elites, also known as the World Economic Forum at Davos, one issue seemed to come up more than it has in the recent past: societal inequality. Oxfam released a well-timed report on economic inequality and directly asked for world elites at Davos to turn their attention to it.

The report highlighted how the 85 richest people in the world (who could hypothetically fit Oxfam reportinto a double-decker bus) now own wealth equal to the lower 3.5 billion people (half the world’s population). Interestingly, the Oxfam site’s link to the report had the picture of a boat, or more precisely, that of a luxury yacht – presumably the kind that those elites may own or have access to. The water all around it seems stable and beautiful as ever. It is hard to resist a metaphor here, which I will expand on through this article.

On the face of it, the call by Oxfam can be puzzling. The fact that societal elites are being asked to give attention to inequality raises a fundamental question: Why should they care?

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UMB OSC group at conference on Inequality, Institutions and Organizations in Vancouver

By Ed Carberry, David Levy, Banu Ozkazanc-Pan, Suhaib Riaz, Mary Still.

The Organizations and Social Change (OSC) research group at UMass-Boston had a strong presence at a recently held conference on “Inequality, Institutions and Organizations” at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver. The conference was organized by John Amis (Memphis), Tom Lawrence (Simon Fraser) and Kamal Munir (Cambridge) and featured guest discussants such as Jerry Davis (Michigan), Steve Barley (Stanford) and Pam Tolbert (Cornell) among others.

Research related to inequality comprises a key area of interest for several scholars in the OSC group at UMass-Boston and their strong presence at Vancouver highlighted their various ongoing projects. The UMB OSC group had the highest number of participants from any one institution and they were also amongst those called upon to summarize the work in their respective streams. Continue reading

Facebook, the IRS, and Inequality

By Ed Carberry

Facebook has been in the news recently for receiving a big tax refund. This comes at a time when a never-ending series of manufactured crises have placed the federal deficit at the center of our limited national attention. This comes at a time when Main Street faces dire consequences from the realization of the Norquistian dream of eliminating most sources of tax revenue. Indeed, the news that Mark Zuckerberg and his colleagues at Facebook are receiving a tax refund seems a particularly egregious and confusing manifestation of one of the most significant barriers to recovery: corporations and the wealthy executives who run them seem unwilling to contribute their fair share to get the country moving again. Continue reading