A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.
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July 3, 2013 · By Robin Broad and John Cavanagh
This piece originally posted in YES! Magazine. John Cavanagh contributed to YES! as part of a new "idea sharing partnership" between YES! and the Institute for Policy Studies.
Robin is standing in front of a church in Guatemala with some of the other members of the first international delegation on “gold mining and the defense of water in El Salvador.” We are 44 people from 12 countries who have come to support El Salvador's right to stop environmentally destructive gold mining. We have come as allies of a coalition called the National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining (“La Mesa”), and we have traveled just across the border to Guatemala because the source of the Lempa River that supplies most of El Salvador's fresh water is here in the Guatemalan hills.
Goldcorp, one of Canada's largest gold mining firms, is building a mine here. The environmental havoc unleashed by this mine will affect not only Guatemalans, but also Salvadorans who depend on the Lempa’s waters as it meanders through El Salvador on its way to the Pacific Ocean.
Read the full article in YES! Magazine.
July 3, 2013 · By Emily Schwartz Greco
This week in OtherWords, Sam Pizzigati celebrates Independence Day by explaining how reducing economic inequality in America would honor the Founders' legacy. Jill Richardson talks about how you can enjoy the best produce summer has to offer all year round if you embrace the tradition of preserving food — even zucchini. And Frances "Sissy" Farenthold teams up with Susan Smith Richardson to weigh in on Wendy Davis and the "unruly mob" making business as usual a bigger challenge than usual in the Texas state capitol.
As always, our commentaries and cartoons are available for publication or cross-posting at no charge in newspapers and new media under a Creative Commons license. Editors may find information about that on our website or contact me with any questions at OtherWords[ AT ]ips-dc.org.
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- The Orange Uprising / Frances “Sissy” Farenthold and Susan Smith Richardson
Wendy Davis's filibuster offered that rare occasion when the government's overreach into the most intimate details of our lives was made plain.
- Minding the Nuclear Fault Line / Robert Alvarez
The federal government should transfer the spent nuclear fuel held at a shuttered nuclear power plant in Southern California before the next earthquake strikes.
- The Tradeoff Between Apple and Apples / Scott Klinger
There would be no need for our elected leaders to trim our safety net if our richest corporations didn't turn avoiding their fair share of taxes into an art form.
- A Big Season for Falling Stars / Donald Kaul
Paula Deen and Aaron Hernandez are suffering fates of their own making.
- A More Perfect Union / Sam Pizzigati
Our elites have lost that selfless spirit.
- Canning Ain’t Rocket Science / Jill Richardson
Even though we've got refrigerators now, putting up food still makes good sense.
- Padding the Bottom Line by Gouging the Customer / Jim Hightower
Big Food considers corporate chicanery to be a legitimate business practice.
- Grave New World / William A. Collins
Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Franz Kafka, and Ray Bradbury long ago explained how the system would work once those in authority got their act together and the technology to spy on us all.
- One More Untaxed Bite at the Apple / Khalil Bendib Cartoon
Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies OtherWords.org
June 28, 2013 · By Colleen Teubner
Before I went to college, my high school advisors strongly encouraged me to choose a "practical" major. Science, technology, engineering, math — any of these fields would lead to a promising career. I rebelled. I chose to study international affairs and history.
People today think of humanities majors as the "starving artists" of academia — students who've sacrificed profit for passion. I couldn't disagree more.
Many forget that there's considerable overlap between the humanities and the hard sciences. Specifically in an area that's captured my interest — environmental history.
Environmental historians study the relationship between people and their environment and how that relationship affects both the course of human history and the biophysical world. Together, historical thinking and scientific analysis provide scholars with unique perspective. Ask environmental historians why the Roman Empire fell, and they'll say lead poisoning.
The Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences recently published a report that promotes collaboration between the humanities and the hard sciences, claiming that the humanities "provide context for international policy decisions regarding the environment, global health, and human rights."
This couldn't be truer. If countries are to agree on scientific policies, they need to understand each other's histories, cultures, and politics.
Students shouldn't be forced to choose a particular field or shamed for choosing to study something that's deemed less desirable. When the humanities and the sciences are pitted against one another, interdisciplinary studies get lost in the crossfire.
It's clear that our country's future is dependent on humanists, scientists, and those who fall somewhere in between. We need to encourage students to follow their passions.
Our society needs passionate people.
Colleen Teubner is a student at the George Washington University and an OtherWords intern at the Institute for Policy Studies. OtherWords.org
June 27, 2013 · By Annie Preston
On June 12, the Institute for Policy Studies and Teaching for Change co-hosted a presentation by lawyer and community organizer Junius Williams on the challenges and next steps for those confronting public school reform in their own communities. Here are some of the stories and analysis he shared.
This spring, a coalition of parents, teachers and administrators rallied outside Roseville Avenue Elementary School to protest the school’s slated closing at the end of the academic year. Roseville Avenue School, in Newark, New Jersey, is housed in a 130 year-old building. It has no gym, no auditorium, and no air conditioning. In the past three years, critical teaching positions at Roseville were cut, including a lead science teacher and a bi-lingual teacher. Despite persistent challenges of high student turnover and limited funds, state superintendent Cami Anderson named one of the top eight high performing/high growth schools in New Jersey in 2012. Just one year later, the school was set to close on the purported basis of poor academic performance and under-enrollment. But parents strongly support the neighborhood school, which has a small, supportive staff that works closely to determine educational needs of the community...
June 26, 2013 · By Daphne Wysham
President Obama's speech at Georgetown University was a milestone on climate change. It is a milestone in two ways. First, he made it clear he is not afraid to tackle coal as the primary culprit in climate change. Second, he made a major pivot in how he framed the Keystone XL pipeline debate. He’s no longer talking about "energy security" or "jobs" when talking about the pipeline but instead linking "our national interest" with whether or not the pipeline would have a significant impact on the changing climate.
Virtually all climate scientists who have weighed in on the Keystone XL pipeline agree that tar sands oil, if exploited, would result in a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions. NASA's former top scientist, James Hansen, said it would be "game over" for the climate if the pipeline went forward.
But more significantly, Obama signaled in this speech that he is ready to use his executive authority, and not willing to compromise on two key things: the climate impacts of coal and tar sands.
He made a major pronouncement in stating that public financing of coal should end, such as financing via agencies such as U.S. Export-Import Bank.
The Institute for Policy Studies was the first organization, together with Friends of the Earth, to document the significant climate impacts of U.S. Export-Import Bank and Overseas Private Investment Corporation's fossil fuel investments in 1998. That research resulted in a lawsuit filed by Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and the City of Boulder challenging both of those public financial institutions with violations under the National Environmental Protection Act, for not calculating the cumulative emissions of their projects on the global climate. Obama's statement today takes that research and legal action one step further and calls for an end to almost all U.S. government funding of coal overseas. The White House statement released today says:
"...The President calls for an end to U.S. government support for public financing of new coal plants overseas, except for (a) the most efficient coal technology available in the world’s poorest countries in cases where no other economically feasible alternative exists, or (b) facilities deploying carbon capture and sequestration technologies. As part of this new commitment, we will work actively to secure the agreement of other countries and the multilateral development banks to adopt similar policies as soon as possible."
While this statement allows for some wiggle room on coal – if the carbon produced from the coal can be captured, which currently is not financially or technically feasible – it would eliminate U.S. backing of coal financing in countries like India and South Africa, both of which have recently received billions of public dollars for massive coal-fired coal plants.
Obama also said he would encourage developing countries to transition to natural gas as they move away from coal, a posture consistent with what he is calling for at home. Such a statement is unfortunate as it encourages the expansion of fracking on U.S. lands, which results in fugitive methane emissions, water contamination, and health problems for nearby communities. The low price of natural gas, while welcome as a replacement for coal, is making truly clean and renewable energy less attractive financially.
Obama also continues to support nuclear power – a surprising posture in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns, a disaster that is transforming Japan, causing it to shut down its nuclear power plants and replace them with renewable energy.
And Obama was unafraid to call out the climate deniers – the "flat earth society" – and shame them, while urging the public to "invest, divest," a statement sure to warm the hearts of students and faith groups across the country, who are urging their institutions to divest their endowments of fossil fuels.
But the significance of this speech is that Obama is finally showing us he is willing to fight – on coal, on tar sands, and on climate. Obama remains an "all of above" champion who believes he can simultaneously frack and drill our country's oil and gas resources and solve the climate crisis. But his apparent feistyness and willingness to challenge the climate impacts of coal and tar sands – after years of silence on both topics – is cause for some celebration.