A Q&A with Jay WexlerIn Mumbai, Hindus carry twenty-foot-tall plaster of Paris idols of the elephant god Ganesh into the sea and leave them on the ocean floor to symbolize the impermanence of life, further polluting the scarce water resources of western India. In Hong Kong and Singapore, Taoists burn paper money to appease “hungry ghosts,” filling the air with smoke and dangerous toxins. These are some of the instances of religious practice colliding with environmentalism that humorist and law professor Jay Wexler investigated for his new book that came out this month, When God Isn’t Green. Over two years, he made a round-the-world trip to understand the complexity of these problems and learn how society can best address them. We caught up with Wexler to ask him about his journey and how we can work toward ecofriendly rituals.
15 posts from March 2016
By Laura A. JacobsTo pee or not to pee: That is the question facing transgender and gender nonconforming people in North Carolina. I first wrote on this a year ago when only a few states were considering anti-transgender bathroom statutes which seemed unlikely to pass. In hindsight, that time seems almost quaint. Now North Carolina and other states are enacting legislation that criminalize transgender and gender nonconforming people for using the bathroom aligned with their identity and/or expression. Behind the rationalizations are two main goals: to scapegoat us for political power, and to punish our community’s nonconformity by creating an environment in which it is impossible—or at least extremely challenging—for transgender and gender nonconforming people to survive.
By Fred PearceThe World Health Organization has estimated that El Niño-related weather across the globe is putting sixty million people at increased risk of malnutrition. On track to being the strongest event since 1997-98, El Niño has caused droughts in countries such as India and South Africa that have staggered farming considerably. How will we manage to feed the world when the effects of climate change continue to encroach on our food sources? In this excerpt from The Land Grabbers: The New Fight over Who Owns the Earth, environmental journalist Fred Pearce argues that small-scale farming, not agribusiness, is the better solution to combat the food crisis.
What sacrifices does a Pakistani wife have to make while living under a military dictatorship? Why are there still so few women working in the hard sciences? Which historically misunderstood workforce forged alliances with activists in the women’s rights and black freedom movements? The answers lie in the books we are featuring this year during Women’s History Month, which explore and applaud the contributions women have made—through survival, activism, trailblazing—to history. Ranging from the individual voice of memoir to the joint voices of the collective biography, their narratives ring out with equal intensity.
By Theresa PerryAs I was reading this book, I remembered Dr. Emdin’s March 2014 Simmons College—Beacon Press Race, Education, and Democracy Lectures, upon which this book is based. To the rapt audience, overflowing with high school and college students, teachers and teacher educators, community activists and organizers, the excitement was palpable. The young and the elderly enthusiastically embraced Dr. Emdin’s ideas about urban education and urban youth. Most importantly, all of us in the room could feel Dr. Emdin’s passion, love, and respect for our youth.
By Premilla NadasenWelcome to the third entry in our Montgomery Bus Boycott Turns 60 Series. Domestic worker Georgia Gilmore was one of the little-known organizers and activists in the boycott, which is why, during Women’s History Month, we are putting the spotlight on her. Gilmore raised money for the boycott and founded the organization Club from Nowhere so that black donators could give money to the cause anonymously without drawing unwanted attention from their white employers and losing their jobs. She cooked out of her own home for people involved in the boycott after she was fired from her own job because of her activism. As this excerpt from Premilla Nadasen's Household Workers Unite shows, Dr. King would not have become the leading civil rights leader he was without the behind-the-scenes work of people like Gilmore who kept the cause afloat.
By Carole JoffeWhen it comes to reproductive matters this campaign season, Democrats and Republicans are operating in parallel universes. For Republican presidential candidates, Planned Parenthood (PP) is the Great Satan that sells baby parts (though Donald Trump is partly off the reservation about PP’s non-abortion activities); abortion is an abomination, and the only policy disagreement among the candidates is whether there should be exceptions for women seeking abortion as a result of rape or incest. The two Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, staunchly support legal abortion and both have defended Planned Parenthood against the inflammatory charges made in a series of highly edited videos about its fetal donation policies and the witch hunt led by Republicans in Congress and many red states.
By Mark TushnetSeveral weeks have passed, and with the President having nominated Merrick Garland as Justice Scalia’s replacement, it might be easier to offer a somewhat more detached view of Justice Scalia’s likely place in Supreme Court history than was possible immediately after his unexpected death.
By Philip WarburgSince Beacon’s publication of Harness the Sun last Fall, I’ve spent a lot of time in university classrooms and on radio shows talking up solar power’s potential as a clean energy resource. These discussions have largely focused on the supply side of renewable energy, but there’s a broader and equally exciting story to tell about the rapid transformation of our built environment. It’s a story that is as much about what we can do to reduce our buildings’ energy demand as it is about what we can do to produce the power we need to comfortably use those buildings.
By Caitlin MeyerLands’ End recently did something wonderful and bold. Their newish CEO, Federica Marchionni, launched a feature in their spring catalog called “Legends,” which aimed to highlight a broad range of individuals who have made a difference in the world. Their first pick, Gloria Steinem, was beautifully photographed and interviewed by Marchionni about issues including gender equality and challenges faced by women in the workplace. Steinem posed with an embroidered tote bag, and part of the proceeds from its sale would go toward the Fund for Women’s Equality, a backing campaign that supports the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment. What a lovely and unexpected move by a clothing company! Except soon after, they did something sort of terrible. They removed the interview from their website, apologized for it, and as a result, withdrew their commitment to the Fund for Women’s Equality.
By Frederick S. LaneAs intrusive as data collection by private companies can be, the negative consequences (unwanted ads, commercial profiling, even credit redlining) pale in comparison to government power over our property, our liberty, and even our lives. As I wrote in American Privacy, we don’t have to look far back in our nation’s history to find instances of government misuse of personal information. Nixon, with his enemies list and abusive IRS practices, is the most well-known example, but similar abuses have flared up at all levels of government. (Among other things, there are numerous reports of investigating officers downloading and sharing nude photos and videos that they discovered while examining seized cellphones.)
A Q&A with Alfie KohnThere’s an epidemic of helicopter parenting. Young people today are narcissistic and suffer from inflated self-esteem. Kids need more experience with failure so they can learn to cope with the real world. Children need more self-discipline and “grit.” These are some of the conventional assumptions about children and parenting that have been uncritically accepted in our culture. In The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Coddled Kids, Helicopter Parents, and Other Phony Crises, now available in paperback, esteemed critic and lecturer Alfie Kohn debunks these beliefs and challenges us to reexamine this conservative ideology adopted often by liberal parents. We caught up Kohn to discuss these myths and how harmful they are to healthy child development.
By Amy SeidlScientists have confirmed that sea levels are likely rising at a faster rate than at any point in twenty-eight centuries because of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity. In the coming decades, American coastal cities will be at risk of continual tidal flooding. If emissions keep up, many coastal cities could be abandoned by the twenty-second century. What does this mean for human migration when land grows scarce? In this excerpt from Finding Higher Ground: Adaptation in the Age of Warming, ecologist Amy Seidl takes a look at the impacts of rising sea levels on human populations in the last century to project the future of our increasingly complicated migration patterns.
By Kay WhitlockHave you, like me, noticed how, in this bizarre and unsettling presidential primary season, everybody is getting on everyone else’s last nerve? Many of us are worried about Donald Trump as political arsonist. We don’t have to tear each other apart over whether he, his campaign, his devotees, and his tactics do or don’t mesh with various academic understandings of fascism. Most of us know damn well that the growing wave of virulent and violent racism, white nativist populism, economic rage, authoritarianism, and American exceptionalism he’s riding is not only volatile but flat out dangerous.
By Ann NeumannSusie Cushner studied to be a death doula three years ago, after a series of personal tragedies precipitated a move across the country. The training started her on a path of self discovery she desperately needed, she told me last week in a cafe in Brooklyn, New York. A photographer by training, she recently founded the Palliative Care Education Initiative to raise awareness of palliative services, a medical specialty that grew out of hospice more than a decade ago and aims to treat suffering patients who may not yet qualify for hospice.