By Philip Warburg | The Better Buildings Act, now making its way through the Massachusetts legislature, is a monumental step toward curbing fossil fuel use by larger commercial and public buildings. Yet even as we focus on these major carbon polluters, we cannot lose sight of the need to bring clean energy solutions to residential communities, particularly those that have been unable to tap the solar energy that shines on their rooftops.
By Marga Vicedo | A two-and-a-half year old girl sits on the floor. Her mother lays besides her, making random marks with a brush and paint on a piece of paper. She is hoping her little girl, Jessy, will imitate her. Unlike most children her age, Jessica has shown little interest in imitating her siblings or her parents. She seems content playing alone, placing some set of objects carefully in rows. Jessica did not start to use the brush and paint herself that day with her mom; but, remarkably, she did so three days later, on her own. From then on, her mother made sure Jessy always had paper, crayons, and paints. These tools would open up a new world of experiences and interests for Jessica.
Hats off to all students graduating this season! Because whew! This is no easy time to finish up school. The ideal graduation ceremony would be outdoors, filled with the company and applause of loved ones. Most will be held online, some outside within the parameters of social distancing. It won’t be the same, and frankly, nothing has been since March last year. But isn’t that what graduating is all about? Growing into the next new phase, whatever that phase happens to be? Before we get all misty-eyed and sob into our masks, here’s a list of recommended reads for the occasion.
By Marga Vicedo | “You are being emotional,” someone may tell you during a conversation. It is not a compliment. It usually means you are being irrational or at least unreasonable. The underlying assumption is that you are not thinking clearly because you are letting your emotions interfere with your reasoning. This belief is not only prevalent in daily interactions. The separation between cognition and affects has a long history in philosophical and scientific approaches in the Western world. The emotional and cognitive realms are often seen as separate, if not opposed to each other.
By Andreas Karelas | Based on the latest findings of positive psychology research, I suggest that, in order to address climate change, we need to cultivate different values—values that place a greater emphasis on community and less on consumption—and that living according to these values will have the benefits of reducing our impact on the planet and increasing our personal well-being. To do this I’ll describe what I believe to be an effective three-step approach: (1) cultivate gratitude, (2) choose simplicity, and (3) focus on serving others. If we can learn to be more grateful for what we have, simplify our lives, and put more effort into serving others, I think we’ll be well on our way to a happier, more sustainable world.
By Emily Paige Ballou | My guess is that if you have a child or family member on the autism spectrum or have been involved with the special education system or disability services as a professional, you have most likely been taught, at some point, that the correct way of referring to people with disabilities is to use “person-first language,” or to “put the person first.”
“Science and technology have permeated nearly every aspect of our lives throughout the course of human history. But perhaps, never before in living memory, have the connections between our scientific world and our social world been quite so stark as they are today. . . . As new technologies take root in our lives, from artificial intelligence to human genome editing, they reveal and reflect even more about the complex and sometimes dangerous social architecture that lies beneath the scientific progress we pursue.”
By Polly Price | Well, it’s official. A presidential administration that left US citizens to sink or swim when facing the worst pandemic in a century has finally admitted what we already knew. It has given up. Saying the quiet part out loud, White House Chief-of-Staff Meadows acknowledged the coronavirus task force no longer even pretends to address the spread of the virus. But this is no surprise to anyone paying attention. This presidential administration was never interested in using the full power, resources, and authority of the federal government to combat COVID-19. And shamefully, it shows.
By Enrico Gnaulati | Under normal circumstances, family life in America is a “fire shower of stress, multi-tasking, and mutual nitpicking” according to journalist Benedict Carey, covering the results of a four-year-long UCLA observational study of thirty-two urban families for the New York Times. A survey funded by Sleepopolis a few years back discovered that kids have an eye-popping 4,200 arguments with their parents before they turn eighteen, averaging fourteen minutes long, with parents “winning” upwards of sixty percent of the time.
By Alan Levinovitz | The value of inclusiveness, like fairness, is written into the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) official constitution. One of the organization’s primary goals is “to strive to ensure that no gender, race, religious, political or other kind of unfair discrimination exists, continues to exist, or is allowed to develop in Athletics in any form, and that all may participate in Athletics regardless of their gender, race, religious or political views or any other irrelevant factor.” That gender shouldn’t affect one’s ability to participate in athletics is now taken for granted, but only after overcoming centuries of pseudoscientific sexism arguing that women were naturally unfit to compete.
A Q&A with Vicki Mayk | What really drew me to the story was Owen Thomas, the young man who is at the center of my book. When he died by suicide in April 2010, I was invited to join a private memorial page that friends set up for him on Facebook. The way that everyone talked about him—from his teammates at his high school near Allentown, PA, and at the University of Pennsylvania to friends, former teachers, casual acquaintances—was mesmerizing. They told stories about him being a warrior on the field and one of the kindest humans off the field.
By Polly Price | Heartening news from Alabama—Governor Kay Ivey ordered face coverings be worn in public, an emergency measure to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus there as the state reached a new record daily death toll. A recognition in the midst of a still unfolding disaster that face masks work.
By Rosemarie Day | As Mother’s Day approaches, this year feels different. In a time of coronavirus, we need more than flowers and a day off. We need more than traditional self-care. We need recognition, deep and lasting recognition, that the work we do as caregivers is invaluable. We need recognition from society as a whole, not just our families. The pandemic has shown everyone that we are essential—women make up over half of the workforce deemed “essential,” including 77% of healthcare workers.
A Q&A with Alan Levinovitz | While researching people’s attitudes towards food, I found that the idea of naturalness came up constantly. The “right” diet was a “natural” diet. And yet, despite widespread agreement on the goodness of what’s natural, there was complete disagreement about the meaning of the term. As I started paying more attention to the term, I realized that using “natural” as a vague synonym for “good” or “right” was omnipresent in virtually every aspect of human culture.
By Rosemarie Day | Ninety-two percent of working-age adults believe that affordable healthcare should be a right in this country. Regardless of party affiliation, the vast majority of Americans support this position. And yet, this election cycle, the political messaging surrounding healthcare has been dominated by rhetoric that divides us. From a president who claims (falsely) that he is protecting people with preexisting conditions, to one of the two remaining Democratic candidates (Sanders) who champions Medicare for All (“he wrote the damn bill!”, after all), Americans can feel trapped by these polarized positions.
By J. A. Mills | What happened after the book ended? Did China finally bend to international will and stop farming tigers, rhinos, and bears like cows and pigs? Readers still write to ask me five years after Beacon Press published “Blood of the Tiger: A Story of Conspiracy, Greed, and the Battle to Save a Magnificent Species.” My answer, as of this moment—when COVID-19 has shut down much of the world—is this: You can watch the rest of the story unfold in real time.
By Adrienne Berard | The new virus emerged in December. The coronavirus, or COVID-19, originated in Wuhan, a city of 11 million located in central China. Since the initial outbreak, more than 76,000 people have been infected globally, in as many as twenty-seven countries, with more than 2,200 deaths being reported, mostly in China.
By Fred Pearce | The exclusion zone that has stretched for twenty miles around Chernobyl’s stricken nuclear reactor since the 1986 accident is not quite the inaccessible dead zone often portrayed. Thousands of Ukrainians commute there every day to work on making safe and dismantling the plant and managing the zone itself. Yes, I needed an official permit to pass through the guarded gates on the road north from Kiev and a radiation scan before I could leave. But the scientists I was with had no trouble arranging my entry—and thankfully I was allowed to go home afterward.
By Michelle Oberman | None of the laws Oklahoma passed were new. They simply passed every measure enacted by other pro-life states, along with the occasional model bill drafted by Americans United for Life. The laws cover a broad range of issues. Some of the laws, such as a ban on sex-selective abortion, are plainly symbolic. Women seeking abortions in Oklahoma, as in other states, need not provide a reason for terminating their pregnancies. There is no way to enforce this provision.
By Jacy Reese | When I met Oliver Zahn in 2015, he was director of the Center for Cosmological Physics at the University of California, Berkeley. Zahn was a fellow member of the local effective altruism community, a social movement and philosophy based on trying to maximize one’s positive impact on the world. In July 2016 I helped the German-born scientist and his family pack up some of their possessions as they prepared to move out of their California home. By this time, Zahn had transitioned to apply his expertise to a mission-driven startup, working as chief data scientist at Impossible Foods, one of the most famous animal-free food companies today.