Sunday, January 22, 2012

Back in business!

Hey everyone!

Sorry it's been a while since I last wrote! A lot of very big changes have happened in my life recently and I just kind of needed to focus on enjoying them. Well, when I say "them," I really mean "her," and her name is Amy. She's amazing and she's my girlfriend and I feel super lucky to be saying that. I'm sure she'll read this and get embarrassed if I get too gushy, so I'll leave it at: if you don't know her yet you should definitely try to make that happen because she's... sunshine.

One thing I love about being with her is how supportive she is of my studies, which, by the way, are going to be incredible this semester! I'll be taking Ethnic Conflicts, where we'll have totally legitimate guest speakers almost every week, and Human Security, which is what I think I'd like to write my thesis on. I'm working on my readings for the Human Security class now and am reading an address by Kofi Annan given in 2005 entitled IN LARGER FREEDOM: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All. This next statement really stood out for me and I wanted to share it with you:

In the Millennium Declaration, Member States said they would spare no effort to promote democracy and strengthen the rule of law, as well as respect for all internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms. And over the last six decades, an impressive treaty-based normative framework has been advanced.  But without implementation, these declarations ring hollow. Without action, promises are meaningless. People who face war crimes find no solace in the unimplemented words of the Geneva Conventions. Treaties prohibiting torture are cold comfort to prisoners  abused by their captors, particularly if the international human rights machinery enables those responsible to hide behind friends in high places. War-weary populations despair when, even though a peace agreement has been signed, there is little progress towards government under the rule of law. Solemn commitments to strengthen democracy remain empty words to those who have never voted for their rulers, and who see no sign that things are changing. Therefore, the normative framework that has been so impressively advanced over the last six decades must be strengthened. Even more important, concrete steps are required to reduce selective application, arbitrary enforcement and breach without consequence. The world must move from an era of legislation to implementation.

Isn't that powerful!? I imagine I'll be quite active sharing many of my readings this semester because they look like they're going to be really good! I'll also be shooting out ideas for my thesis development, and if any of you have feedback I'd love to hear it! Right now I'm toying with the idea of a "security spectrum," where I look at the different ways human security is defined. For example, would two women, one walking in New York, New York, the other walking in Tibili, Burkina Faso, define their personal security in the same way? Is there a comparison between traveling down a deserted New York City street and traveling miles to a well for water?And, furthermore, how do their definitions differentiate from a man on Capitol Hill? Or a theocratic representative to the UN? These questions become important from a policy perspective because the ones in power are the ones who decide how human security is defined and therefore, where resources should be allocated for protection. I'm excited about the prospect of this because I think it would allow me to interact with a wide range of individuals and collect concrete information on how this developing idea of human security is evolving. Anyways... like I said, it's a work in progress!
I should probably go and get some more reading done, but I'm glad to be back online with all of you and I hope everyone has had a very enjoyable and rejuvenating winter, thus far!
All the best,

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Consumer Social Responsibility

Lately the news has been adamantly following what's been going on in Egypt, and rightfully so. The focus has especially been on social media and how mediums such as Facebook and Twitter enabled the organization  of the movement and the out pour of grievances. However, as we recognize the importance of this occasion we mustn't forget that there are millions of people that have no medium to air their grievances internationally. Ironically enough, some of these people are those that have literally made the social media movement possible by the sweat of their brow. I'm not referring to 'The Social Network,' I'm referring to inhumane, often unpaid labor associated with extraction of the minerals coltan and cassiterite which go into making the motherboards for computers, cell phones and the like. Attached here is an informative video that I encourage you to watch to become more aware of where the product you are typing on comes from: Grand Theft Congo- DRC .

I'm sure after watching something like that you are both disturbed and filled with questions. What can we do about these atrocities that our consumerism obviously help finance!? The clearest, and what I believe is the most immediate and self-disciplined answer, is curb our individual consumption. All to often in 'developed' countries that are distant from the toil, production, and environmental impact of our goods, we think it is okay to purchase recklessly because it 'boosts the economy.' This insatiable habit for consumption is not only likely to get us into serious trouble in the future as resources diminish, but is having deadly effects now, today, in countries across the globe. Take a look at this report on the effects of factories in Lesotho. Levi -Gap Factories Pollute Rivers and Damage Health in Lesotho .

We are not taking responsibility for the consequences of our actions. We want to open up markets and turn everyone into 'effective consumers,' yet we can not even mitigate the effects of our own actions. We blame the corporations and call for corporate social responsibility (CSR), when it is in fact our demand that fueled that irresponsibility in the first place. This is not to say that CSR is not crucial, it is, but the answer is two-fold and addressing and controlling our spending is also a necessary part. We can also pressure our officials, our corporations, our NGO's, whoever will listen, to create a better system of product line accountability. Indeed efforts like this have already been put into motion, such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative: But then we must use it! If the demand is there then supply will follow, we know this all too well. And if laws don't come first let's create a normative movement, entreating people to join PTEP: People for the Ethical Treatment of People!

Paul Farmer is famously quoted in Tracy Kidder's book Mountains Beyond Mountains for saying "I love WL's (white liberals), love 'em to death. They're on our side. But WL's think all the world's problems can be fixed without any cost to themselves. We (PIH) don't believe that. There's a lot to be said for sacrifice, remorse, even pity. It's what separates us from roaches" (Kidder, 40). I recognize this is a very touchy subject, and it often makes people uncomfortable. My response to this... good! Maybe that discomfort will entice some sort of action, rather than compliance; and besides, this discomfort hardly begins to grasp the inhumanity our brothers and sisters in Lesotho and the DRC face.

Friday, November 12, 2010

It's been a while...

Hello there!
Well the evidence of the time constraints of working full-time and attending grad school part-time are palpable; my last blog entry was September 17th. My apologies to all of you who have been left in the dark about what I've been up to, or whether I'm even still a functioning human being. The answer is yes, I'm functioning (for the most part), and am experiencing nearly excessive personal enrichment. I'll define 'personal enrichment' as a process of learning about: myself, New York, waitressing, limitations of etiquette, realities of politics, value of friendships, and much, much more. Let me just say, it's been an interesting past few months that have been filled with absolutely wonderful experiences (ie. Mom visiting New York for the first time) to the growing pangs of becoming an adult.
So without further ado, I'll jump right into a topic we've been discussing inexhaustibly: globalization. If you were one of the protesters at the 1999 WTO summit in Seattle, Washington this term probably evokes strong feelings, but even if you weren't you still may have some thoughts on it. If you have any interest, I highly recommend the article "Globalization and It's Discontents," by Joseph Stiglitz, former Chief Economist at the World Bank and current professor at Columbia University. It was published by W. W. Norton & Company, June 2002.
And with globalization comes the discussion of development. Here is a quote that I read recently that stuck a chord: "In illuminating the contentious link between development and violence, we are deliberately posing the question of whose vantage point counts. Is it possible to give primacy to the perspective of those excluded and victimized by development? How do forest dwellers, traditional fisher people, women and men eking out a living in urban slums, tribal and indigenous communities, contract workers, domestic workers far from home, displaced and migrant people, sex workers and orphans and refugees understand development given the violence of their everyday exclusion, exploitation, discrimination and marginalization?" S Kothari &W Harcourt, 'Introduction: The violence of Development', Development (special issue), 47 (1), 2004, p. 6. With these words echoing, I suggest you read Marianne Marchand "The Violence of Development and the Migration/Insecurities Nexus: labour migration in a North American context." It is particularly crucial for those of our society, a society of immigrants I might add, who are so content in condemning "illegal immigration."

Friday, September 17, 2010

Speaking of Security...

How about one of the largest security concerns of our day and age... terrorism? I read this passage in Rick Steves' book "Travel as a Political Act" and could not have put it better myself. If you find this stimulating I encourage reading his entire book, where he uses examples from his own travel experience to offer multi-faceted possibilities to seemingly unsolvable problems.

An excerpt from "Travel as a Political Act" by Rick Steves

On terrorism...

"Fear has always been a barrier to travel. And, after 9/11, the U.S. became even more fearful... and more isolated. Of course, there are serious risks that deserve more careful attention. But it's all too easy to mistake fear for actual danger. Franklin D. Roosevelt's assertion that we have nothing to fear but fear itself feels just as relevant today as when he first said it in 1933.
I'm hardly a fearless traveler. I can think of many times I've been afraid before a trip. Years ago, I heard that in Egypt, the beggars were relentless, there were no maps, and it was so hot that car tires melted to the streets. For three years, I had plane tickets to India but bailed out, finding other places closer to my comfort zone. Before flying to Iran to film a public television show, I was uneasy. But in each case, when I finally went to these countries, I realized my fears were unfounded.
History is rife with examples of leaders who manipulate fear to distract, mislead, and undermine the will of the very people who entrusted them with power. Our own recent history is no exception. If you want to sell weapons to Colombia, exaggerate the threat of drug lords. If you want to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, trump up the fear of illegal immigrants. If you want to create an expensive missile-defense system, terrify people with predictions of nuclear holocaust. My travels have taught me to have a healthy skepticism toward those who peddle fear. And in so many cases, I've learned that the flipside to fear is understanding.
As travelers and as citizens, we react not to the risk of terrorism but to that perceived risk of terrorism- which we generally seem to exaggerate. For travelers, the risk is minuscule. Here are the facts: Year after year, about 12 million Americans go to Europe, and not one is killed by terrorists. In 2004, there was a horrific bombing in Madrid- no Americans killed. In 2005, there was a despicable bombing in London's subway and bus system- no Americans killed. In 2008, there was a terrible bombing in Istanbul- no Americans killed. This isn't a guarantee. <Something could happen to an American abroad.> But, tragic as that might be, it wouldn't change the fact that it is safe to travel. Statistically, even in the most sobering days of post 9/11 anxiety, travel to most international destinations remained no more dangerous than a drive to your neighborhood grocery store.
Why do we react so strongly to these events? The mainstream media are partly to blame. Sensationalizing tragedy gets more eyes on the screen. But it also exaggerates the impact of a disaster, causing viewers (understandably) to overreact. More than once I've found myself in a place that was going through a crisis that made international headlines- terrorist bombing, minor earthquakes, or riots. Folks from back home call me, their voices shaking with anxiety, to be sure I'm okay. They seem surprised when I casually dismiss their concern. Invariably, the people who live in that place are less worked up than the ones watching it on the news 5,000 miles away. I don't blame my loved ones for worrying. The media has distorted the event in their minds.
I got an email recently from a man who wrote, 'Thanks for the TV shows. They will provide a historical documentation of a time when Europe was white and not Muslim. Keep filming your beloved Europe before it's gone.'
Reading this, I thought how feisty fear has become in our society. A fear of African Americans swept the U.S. in the 1960s. Jews have been feared in many places throughout history. And today, Muslims are feared. But we have a choice whether or not to be afraid. Americans who have had the opportunity to travel in moderate Muslim nations like Turkey or Morocco- and been welcomed by smiling locals who gush 'We love Americans!'- no longer associate Islam with terrorism.
Of course terrorism- which, by its very nature, is designed to be emotional and frighten the masses- makes is more difficult to overcome fear. But my travels have helped me distinguish between the fear of terrorism... and the actual danger of terrorism. I was in London on 7/7/05, a date the Brits consider 'their 9/11.' A series of devastating bombs ripped through the subway system, killing 52 and injuring about 700 people. Remembering the impact of 9/11 on the U.S., I thought, 'Oh my goodness, everything will be shut down.'
Instead, I witnessed a country that, as a matter of principle, refused to be terrorized by the terrorists. The prime minister returned from meetings in Scotland to organize a smart response. Within a couple of days, he was back in Scotland, London was functioning as normal, and they set out to catch the bad guys- which they did. There was no lingering panic. People mourned the tragedy, even as they kept it in perspective. The terrorists were captured and brought to justice, Britain made a point to learn from the event (by reviewing security on public transit and making an effort to interact more constructively with its Muslim minority)... and life went on.
The American reaction to the shocking and grotesque events of 9/11 was understandable. But seeing another society respond so differently to its own disaster inspired me to grapple with a new perspective. If the goal of terrorists is to terrify us into submission, then those who refuse to become fearful stand defiantly against them.
Every time I'm stuck in a long security line at the airport, I reflect on one of the most disconcerting results of terrorism: The very people who would benefit most from international travel- those who needlessly fear people and places they don't understand- decide to stay home. I believe the most powerful things an individual American can do to fight terrorism are to travel a lot, learn about the world, come home with a new perspective, and then work to help our country fit more comfortably and less fearfully into this planet.

Terrorism by the Numbers
Reducing the tragedy of terrorist casualties to statistics strikes many people as disrespectful and callous. But I believe that when we overreact to the threat of the terrorist, we empower the terrorist and actually become a part of the problem. By setting emotion aside and being as logical as possible, we can weigh the relative risks and rewards or costs and benefits of various American behaviors.
Every three days, a 747's worth of people die on our highways. And it's not worth headlines. We're a mighty nation of 300 million people. People die. Some 400,000 people die on our roads every year. Anybody in that business knows if we all drove 20 miles an hour slower, we'd save thousands of precious lives. But in the privacy of the voting booth, is the average American going to vote to drive 50mph on our freeways to save thousands of lives? Hell, no. We've got places to go.
Consider hand guns. Thirteen thousand people die every year in our country because of handguns. You could make the case that that's a reasonable price to pay for the precious right to bear arms. We are a free and well-educated democracy. We know the score. And year after year, we seem to agree that spending these lives is a reasonable trade-off for enjoying our Second Amendment right.
Germans decided not to have that right to bear arms, and consequently they lose only about 1,000 people a year. Europeans (who suffer less than a quarter the per capita gun killings we do) laugh out loud when they hear that Americans are staying home for safety reasons. If you care about your loved ones (and understand the statistics) you'll take them to Europe tomorrow.
If we dispassionately surveyed the situation, we might similarly accept the human cost of our aggressive stance on this planet. We spend untold thousands of live a year for the rights to drive fast and bear arms. Perhaps 300 million Americans being seen by the rest of the world as an empire is another stance that comes with an unavoidable cost in human lives.
I know this is wild, but imagine we downgraded our 'War on Terror.' Fantasize for a moment about the money and energy we could save, and all the good we could do with those resources if they were compassionately and wisely diverted to challenges like global warming or the plight of desperate people (in lands that have no oil or strategic importance) whose suffering barely registers in the media. Imagine then the resulting American image abroad. We'd be tougher for our terrorist enemies to demonize. And imagine the challenge that would present to terrorist recruiters."

Addressing Security Challenges

As some of you may know, one of the classes I am enrolled in this semester at NYU is Peacemaking and Peacebuilding. A crucial part of "making" peace is addressing security concerns, something we are currently focusing on in our coursework. We recently read an excerpt from the book New Global Dangers by Michael E. Brown. I found his work intriguing and would like to share it with you for your thoughts and commentary. Because of time restrictions (and my hands getting tired from typing) I have only included the sections that I found to be most interesting. Enjoy!

New Global Dangers by Michael Brown

Excerpt from Policy Lessons

Conceptual Lessons

Policymakers (also) need to reconsider the ways security problems are conceived and how security problems should be framed.
First, many policymakers still define security in narrow terms, giving undue weight to interstate conflicts and the military dimensions of security problems. Policymakers should develop broader security agendas that give appropriate weight to the full range of interstate, intrastate, transnational, military and nonmilitary challenges that are unfolding today. The policy lesson is to think inclusively about the security agenda.
Second, if security problems are complex, multidimensional and interconnected, it follows that security policies should be multifaceted. Unfortunately, policymakers often favor simple, single-factor policy approaches; they hope that a single silver bullet will solve complex policy problems. This is another example of wishful thinking. The main policy lesson here is that complex, multidimensional security problems do indeed require multifaceted policy responses- often involving a combination of diplomatic, political, economic and military elements. This is often challenging conceptually and politically, but it is nonetheless necessary.
Third, a related lesson is that many contemporary security problems are not amenable to simple military action. Indeed, military responses often turn out to be inappropriate, ineffective, and even counterproductive. The use of military force often appears to be a panacea, but this is all too often illusory. Problems that have nonmilitary roots will almost always require a range of nonmilitary policy responses, even if military actions are a part of the equation as well.

International Lessons

Policymakers should keep in mind several general policy lessons about the international dimensions of contemporary security problems and the international dimensions of suitable policy responses.
First, many security problems in the twenty-first century will cross national borders and cut across regions. Some will be truly global in scope. It will be beyond the capability of any one actor- even a superpower such as the United States- to tackle these problems on its own. National leaders who try to tackle these problems unilaterally will fail; national interests will correspondingly suffer. Therefore, one of the most basic principles of security policy in the twenty-first century will be multilateralism: transnational security problems will require multilateral policy responses.
Second, multilateral initiatives will require leadership. Although the United States will not be able to lead on every issue at every junction, it will continue to be the world’s most powerful country for the foreseeable future. U.S. leadership – in identifying problems, devising strategies, forming coalitions, providing resources and taking actions- will therefore be key. If U.S. political leaders play a more energetic and effective global leadership role, many national, regional and international security challenges will become more manageable. If U.S. leaders are unwilling, disinclined, or unable t play this role, a wide array of security problems will become increasingly formidable.
To be more effective, U.S. officials need to develop a better appreciation of what international leadership entails. Since the end of the Cold War and cutting across both Democratic and Republican administrations, the prevailing U.S. approach to international problems has been to set a U.S. course and assume that others will ultimately follow- willingly or grudgingly. Complaints about American presumptuousness and arrogance have consequently become increasingly common. U.S. officials would be wise to appreciate that true leadership is based on true consultation. It is not enough for Washington to inform others of what it intends to do. The United States needs to consult with allies, friends and others about goals, strategies, and actions. And above all, Washington needs to make a genuine effort to take the views of others into account. The United States clearly has the capacity to undertake unilateral actions in the international arena, but it will be able to lead only if it listens.
This leads to a third set of lessons. Those who seek to forge or sustain multilateral initiatives should seek to keep several operations guidelines in mind. For starters, multilateralism cannot be turned on and off and on again. Building multilateral patterns of cooperation takes steady, sustained engagement. The United States, which often suffers from international attention deficit disorder, will have to pay continual attention to the maintenance of multiple international coalitions. A related guideline is that multilateralism is not an a la carte proposition. The United States cannot champion multilateralism when it is convenient for Washington to do so and slight it the rest of the time. The United States must be prepared to engage on issues across the board. In addition, multilateralism is a two way street. The United States must be willing to give as much as it gets. Indeed, one would hope that the world’s wealthiest and most powerful country would be inclined to give more than it gets.
Most of these policy lessons are simple and commonsensical: act early, think ahead, plan for the long haul, avoid simple conceptual schemes and simple policy responses, recognize the limitations of military actions, and recognize the need for multilateral initiatives.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Some food for thought...

I was recently sent some thoughtful quotes made by Albert Einstein. The man was not only a genius in physics, but apparently in life as well. Enjoy!

Collected Quotes from Albert Einstein

  • "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction."
  • "Imagination is more important than knowledge."
  • "Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love."
  • "I want to know God's thoughts; the rest are details."
  • "The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax."
  • "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."
  • "The only real valuable thing is intuition."
  • "A person starts to live when he can live outside himself."
  • "I am convinced that He (God) does not play dice."
  • "God is subtle but he is not malicious."
  • "Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character."
  • "I never think of the future. It comes soon enough."
  • "The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility."
  • "Sometimes one pays most for the things one gets for nothing."
  • "Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind."
  • "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."
  • "Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds."
  • "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."
  • "Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen."
  • "Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one's living at it."
  • "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."
  • "The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education."
  • "God does not care about our mathematical difficulties. He integrates empirically."
  • "The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking."
  • "Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal."
  • "Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding."
  • "The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible."
  • "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
  • "Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school."
  • "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing."
  • "Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater."
  • "Equations are more important to me, because politics is for the present, but an equation is something for eternity."
  • "If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut."
  • "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe."
  • "As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality."
  • "Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods."
  • "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."
  • "In order to form an immaculate member of a flock of sheep one must, above all, be a sheep."
  • "The fear of death is the most unjustified of all fears, for there's no risk of accident for someone who's dead."
  • "Too many of us look upon Americans as dollar chasers. This is a cruel libel, even if it is reiterated thoughtlessly by the Americans themselves."
  • "Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism -- how passionately I hate them!"
  • "No, this trick won't work...How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?"
  • "My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind."
  • "Yes, we have to divide up our time like that, between our politics and our equations. But to me our equations are far more important, for politics are only a matter of present concern. A mathematical equation stands forever."
  • "The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking...the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker."
  • "Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence."
  • "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed."
  • "A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeeded be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death."
  • "The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge."
  • "Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion."
  • "You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."
  • "One had to cram all this stuff into one's mind for the examinations, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect on me that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year."
  • " of the strongest motives that lead men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one's own ever-shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from the personal life into the world of objective perception and thought."
  • "He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder."
  • "A human being is a part of a whole, called by us _universe_, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."
  • "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts." (Sign hanging in Einstein's office at Princeton)
Copyright: Kevin Harris 1995 (may be freely distributed with this acknowledgement)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Tumultuous 20's

Recently, I've found myself having the same conversation over and over again with my 20-something friends. I've come to call it "The Tumultuous 20's Convo.," and it basically consists of asking ourselves the rhetorical question, "What are we doing with our lives?" For all of those that feel me, throw your hands up! But really though, any insight to this? Who of you are feeling this same internal clock telling you that you better get things figured out fast before the adulthood highway makes you street-meat. And on the same token, you are living a "grown-up" life but don't really feel grown-up. Aye, so many contradictory struggles! All I know is that these ideas are accentuated when I hear about how 14-year-olds have their own labels and bodyguards.

What's happening with our generation? Have the 20's always felt like this? The early 20's seemed so carefree, why are the mid-20's so different? My good friend Nayeli referred me to this article by the New York Times. It's intriguing. Take a look and tell me what you think. Are we all slackers? Or do we just care so much about too much that it's hard to go in just one direction?

What Is It About 20-Somethings?


Published: August 18, 2010

Why are so many people in their 20s taking so long to grow up?

This question pops up everywhere, underlying concerns about “failure to launch” and “boomerang kids.” Two new sitcoms feature grown children moving back in with their parents — “$#*! My Dad Says,” starring William Shatner as a divorced curmudgeon whose 20-something son can’t make it on his own as a blogger, and “Big Lake,” in which a financial whiz kid loses his Wall Street job and moves back home to rural Pennsylvania. A cover of The New Yorker last spring picked up on the zeitgeist: a young man hangs up his new Ph.D. in his boyhood bedroom, the cardboard box at his feet signaling his plans to move back home now that he’s officially overqualified for a job. In the doorway stand his parents, their expressions a mix of resignation, worry, annoyance and perplexity: how exactly did this happen?

It’s happening all over, in all sorts of families, not just young people moving back home but also young people taking longer to reach adulthood overall. It’s a development that predates the current economic doldrums, and no one knows yet what the impact will be — on the prospects of the young men and women; on the parents on whom so many of them depend; on society, built on the expectation of an orderly progression in which kids finish school, grow up, start careers, make a family and eventually retire to live on pensions supported by the next crop of kids who finish school, grow up, start careers, make a family and on and on. The traditional cycle seems to have gone off course, as young people remain un¬tethered to romantic partners or to permanent homes, going back to school for lack of better options, traveling, avoiding commitments, competing ferociously for unpaid internships or temporary (and often grueling) Teach for America jobs, forestalling the beginning of adult life.

The 20s are a black box, and there is a lot of churning in there. One-third of people in their 20s move to a new residence every year. Forty percent move back home with their parents at least once. They go through an average of seven jobs in their 20s, more job changes than in any other stretch. Two-thirds spend at least some time living with a romantic partner without being married. And marriage occurs later than ever. The median age at first marriage in the early 1970s, when the baby boomers were young, was 21 for women and 23 for men; by 2009 it had climbed to 26 for women and 28 for men, five years in a little more than a generation.

We’re in the thick of what one sociologist calls “the changing timetable for adulthood.” Sociologists traditionally define the “transition to adulthood” as marked by five milestones: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child. In 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men had, by the time they reached 30, passed all five milestones. Among 30-year-olds in 2000, according to data from the United States Census Bureau, fewer than half of the women and one-third of the men had done so. A Canadian study reported that a typical 30-year-old in 2001 had completed the same number of milestones as a 25-year-old in the early ’70s.

The whole idea of milestones, of course, is something of an anachronism; it implies a lockstep march toward adulthood that is rare these days. Kids don’t shuffle along in unison on the road to maturity. They slouch toward adulthood at an uneven, highly individual pace. Some never achieve all five milestones, including those who are single or childless by choice, or unable to marry even if they wanted to because they’re gay. Others reach the milestones completely out of order, advancing professionally before committing to a monogamous relationship, having children young and marrying later, leaving school to go to work and returning to school long after becoming financially secure.

Even if some traditional milestones are never reached, one thing is clear: Getting to what we would generally call adulthood is happening later than ever. But why? That’s the subject of lively debate among policy makers and academics. To some, what we’re seeing is a transient epiphenomenon, the byproduct of cultural and economic forces. To others, the longer road to adulthood signifies something deep, durable and maybe better-suited to our neurological hard-wiring. What we’re seeing, they insist, is the dawning of a new life stage — a stage that all of us need to adjust to.

JEFFREY JENSEN ARNETT, a psychology professor at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., is leading the movement to view the 20s as a distinct life stage, which he calls “emerging adulthood.” He says what is happening now is analogous to what happened a century ago, when social and economic changes helped create adolescence — a stage we take for granted but one that had to be recognized by psychologists, accepted by society and accommodated by institutions that served the young. Similar changes at the turn of the 21st century have laid the groundwork for another new stage, Arnett says, between the age of 18 and the late 20s. Among the cultural changes he points to that have led to “emerging adulthood” are the need for more education to survive in an information-based economy; fewer entry-level jobs even after all that schooling; young people feeling less rush to marry because of the general acceptance of premarital sex, cohabitation and birth control; and young women feeling less rush to have babies given their wide range of career options and their access to assisted reproductive technology if they delay pregnancy beyond their most fertile years.

Just as adolescence has its particular psychological profile, Arnett says, so does emerging adulthood: identity exploration, instability, self-focus, feeling in-between and a rather poetic characteristic he calls “a sense of possibilities.” A few of these, especially identity exploration, are part of adolescence too, but they take on new depth and urgency in the 20s. The stakes are higher when people are approaching the age when options tend to close off and lifelong commitments must be made. Arnett calls it “the age 30 deadline.”

The issue of whether emerging adulthood is a new stage is being debated most forcefully among scholars, in particular psychologists and sociologists. But its resolution has broader implications. Just look at what happened for teenagers. It took some effort, a century ago, for psychologists to make the case that adolescence was a new developmental stage. Once that happened, social institutions were forced to adapt: education, health care, social services and the law all changed to address the particular needs of 12- to 18-year-olds. An understanding of the developmental profile of adolescence led, for instance, to the creation of junior high schools in the early 1900s, separating seventh and eighth graders from the younger children in what used to be called primary school. And it led to the recognition that teenagers between 14 and 18, even though they were legally minors, were mature enough to make their own choice of legal guardian in the event of their parents’ deaths. If emerging adulthood is an analogous stage, analogous changes are in the wings.

But what would it look like to extend some of the special status of adolescents to young people in their 20s? Our uncertainty about this question is reflected in our scattershot approach to markers of adulthood. People can vote at 18, but in some states they don’t age out of foster care until 21. They can join the military at 18, but they can’t drink until 21. They can drive at 16, but they can’t rent a car until 25 without some hefty surcharges. If they are full-time students, the Internal Revenue Service considers them dependents until 24; those without health insurance will soon be able to stay on their parents’ plans even if they’re not in school until age 26, or up to 30 in some states. Parents have no access to their child’s college records if the child is over 18, but parents’ income is taken into account when the child applies for financial aid up to age 24. We seem unable to agree when someone is old enough to take on adult responsibilities. But we’re pretty sure it’s not simply a matter of age.

If society decides to protect these young people or treat them differently from fully grown adults, how can we do this without becoming all the things that grown children resist — controlling, moralizing, paternalistic? Young people spend their lives lumped into age-related clusters — that’s the basis of K-12 schooling — but as they move through their 20s, they diverge. Some 25-year-olds are married homeowners with good jobs and a couple of kids; others are still living with their parents and working at transient jobs, or not working at all. Does that mean we extend some of the protections and special status of adolescence to all people in their 20s? To some of them? Which ones? Decisions like this matter, because failing to protect and support vulnerable young people can lead them down the wrong path at a critical moment, the one that can determine all subsequent paths. But overprotecting and oversupporting them can sometimes make matters worse, turning the “changing timetable of adulthood” into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The more profound question behind the scholarly intrigue is the one that really captivates parents: whether the prolongation of this unsettled time of life is a good thing or a bad thing. With life spans stretching into the ninth decade, is it better for young people to experiment in their 20s before making choices they’ll have to live with for more than half a century? Or is adulthood now so malleable, with marriage and employment options constantly being reassessed, that young people would be better off just getting started on something, or else they’ll never catch up, consigned to remain always a few steps behind the early bloomers? Is emerging adulthood a rich and varied period for self-discovery, as Arnett says it is? Or is it just another term for self-indulgence?

Want to read more? Continue from page 3 on the following link:, august 22, 2010&st=cse&scp=1

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What's happening in Pakistan?

For those of you unaware, I've composed some information on the devastating floods that are affecting Pakistan as we speak. The information compiled below is from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and Acumen Fund, a "non-profit global venture fund that uses entrepreneurial approaches to solve the problems of global poverty," The founder, Jacqueline Novogratz, wrote The Blue Sweater. It is a thought-provoking message on changing the concepts of philanthropy.

OCHA Report:

PESHAWAR, 8 August 2010 (IRIN) - For the past 10 days, torrential monsoon rainfall has killed more than 1,600 people inflicted widesperad damage across the country, with the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) suffering the greatest losses, federal authorities and aid agencies say.
Estimates vary over the number of people affected by the floods. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on 8 August four million had been affected, while some media reports suggest up to 14 million.
“It’s just impossible to live there. Government officials are helping only their own supporters. Our house has been virtually destroyed and the camps are dismal,” Umair Khan, from Umerzai, the worst-hit union council (administrative unit) in Charsadda, told IRIN.

Sanitary conditions in the Nowshera and Charsadda districts of KP have been described by aid workers as “alarming”.

“We know it’s not clean, but there is no other water available. Even taps are not working,” teenager Hashim Khan told IRIN.
The lack of clean drinking water has long been a problem in parts of the country. A 2007 World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) report, Pakistan’s Waters at Risk, says 250,000 children die every year from drinking contaminated water.
Wells, streams and springs have been contaminated, as has ground water. People are forced to drink from stagnant pools, contaminated by human waste and dead animals.

Aid workers are warning of illness and deaths from water-borne diseases, which are expected to increase rapidly.
“There could be a second wave of deaths due to water-borne diseases if we don’t act fast enough to provide safe drinking water,” Maurizio Giuliano, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Pakistan, told IRIN. He said over one million people were in need of clean water and 430,000 water purification tablets had been distributed so far.

I received this email from Acumen Fund talking about legitimate organizations performing sustainable development work in the region.
"Acumen Fund is deeply committed to Pakistan, where we have worked since 2002, but we are not directly involved in relief work. While many organizations are doing extraordinary work in Pakistan right now, here are four organizations that we recommend you consider supporting in their Pakistan flood relief efforts:

* Rural Support Program Network
The Rural Support Program Network (RSPN) is a national organization and the largest non-government network of rural development programs in Pakistan. RSPN's partners have worked extensively in disaster relief efforts in Pakistan, including the 2005 Earthquake. RSPN is collecting donations for flood affected families. Donations will be provided to affected families through the on-ground network of RSPN's partners, including SRSO that is headed by Dr. Sono Khangharani, a long time Acumen friend.

* Kashf Foundation
Kashf Foundation is one of the largest microfinance organization in Pakistan and an Acumen investee. Kashf will be distributing relief packages to 10,000 households in the most affected areas. Given Kashf Foundation's focus on provide sustainable livelihoods, the next phase of rehabilitation will involve support through access to financial services so that affected households can rebuild their income streams. To make a donation, contact CEO Roshaneh Zafar via her assistant at

* International Rescue Committee
The International Rescue Committee is responding to the devastating floods in Pakistan. With a robust network of local staff and partners already on the ground, and 30 years of experience working in Pakistan, the IRC is well-positioned to provide shelter, clean water, sanitation, and essential supplies to those who have fled the rising waters.

* The Citizens Foundation (TCF)
TCF is a non-profit organization set up in 1995 by a group of citizens concerned with the dismal state of education in Pakistan. Although its focus is on education, TCF was actively involved in relief efforts after the earthquake and is once again mobilizing resources to contribute towards the flood relief efforts. To give to TCF in the US, follow this link.
As part of my coursework for the Summer Institute on Global Affairs at NYU, we visited the International Rescue Committee and heard first hand the diligent work being done mostly by trained professionals from the respective host-countries. This is an absolutely necessary for the reconstruction following this crisis.
On a more personal note, a dear friend of mine has worked extensively with The Citizens Foundation, a Pakistani organization whose focus is improving education in Pakistan. She has provided them detailed information on why it is important, and how to make secular, primary education accessible to rural Pakistanis. This is also immensely important in this catastrophe, as some of the most vulnerable victims to disaster are children.
Long Term
Ask yourself, "Why are these floods happening?" A statement provided in the OCHA reported, "melting glaciers have contributed more water to the lake," and coupled with more intense weather patterns, obviously produces a deadly mixture. Yet even with these salients, the effects of global climate change are still being disputed. Perhaps it is because we have yet to witness such a cataclysmic disaster in our own back-yards. If this is the case, then what was Hurricane Katrina? We must begin realizing that the environment around us is changing, and therefore we must change! I've heard it argued that these are natural phenomena and therefore we are hopeless to their effects. Have we not learned from centuries of adaptation? Seen species go extinct because of their inability to do so? Humans are not immune from the natural world, and if we take this attitude of "business as usual," we will suffer. It's happening now, and who is suffering?
Do something about it. Act now. Be environmentally conscious. And let us try to be proactive about protecting those hit hardest by increasingly frequent natural disasters.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Proposal for Solving Global Climate Change

This is paper I wrote for my course on Global Climate Change for Professor Bill Hewitt during the NYU Summer Intensive Certificate on Global Affairs. The question he posed to us was how to create a comprehensive solution to the changes happening to our climate. The assigned reading was Al Gore's "Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis," which I highly recommend to anyone with any interest in this topic!

Human Potential for Protecting the Earth (H.O.P.E.):
A Proposal for Solving Global Climate Change

Tackling a topic like global climate change is no easy task. As a matter of fact, it seems to just about the most difficult task this generation will ever face. Some may argue that conflicts in the Middle East, worldwide poverty or disparity of resources are the most difficult tasks we face globally. Rest assured each of these is undeniably linked with the way we treat our planet and its reaction to our abuse. In the following paper I plan to address the substantial issue of global climate change, revealing some of the problems for handling it and proposing a systematic road-map to solving it. I will introduce the problems in a three-fold manner, beginning with a lack of support by the general public, following with a fragmentation of efforts for progressive change and ending with weak policy and economic incentive. After addressing such upsetting problems, it is necessary to offer some optimistic and realistic solutions. These solutions will be proposed in a deductive manner, wherein each should follow logically behind its predecessor. The solutions will utilize avenues such as media resources, education, economic incentives and market instruments.

To begin we must first understand what global climate change actually is and what it entails. Global climate change is not synonymous with global warming, although they are closely connected. Global climate change is a sort of reaction to global warming; however, it is a reaction that then feeds positively back into the system which increases global warming. For example, global warming is causing the melting of the glaciers, a phenomenon of global climate change. Greater surface temperature is increasing the average temperature of the troposphere, inducing ice melt. However, when glaciers melt they flow into the ocean. This reduces the earth’s albedo, because ice is a reflective for solar rays but water is an absorbent. This increased absorbency of solar heat further increases warming of the ocean and subsequently, global warming. This relationship is known as a positive feed-back loop and may be seen through many other examples between global warming and global climate change.

So now we must ask ourselves, what causes global warming if it seems to be the catalyst for such important global transformations? The answer is increased greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and “F-gases.” Because carbon dioxide is the most prevalent of these emissions, and because of the limitations of this paper, I am choosing to focus solely on carbon dioxide throughout the remainder. Carbon dioxide also seems to be the most controversial topic, in that, the general public continues to be confused as to where this increase in carbon dioxide is coming from. Most people know that driving gas-guzzling cars and leaving your air conditioning running while you’re away is bad for the environment, but the extent of awareness seems to stop there. Regardless of the plethora of information available from peer-reviewed scientists on the anthropogenic causes of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, there still appears to be a debate as to if humans carry the weight of this burden. Why is this? The simple answer is money. Smart, informed people with money and with interest in keeping that money have waged campaigns in sustaining the voting public in a net of confusion about carbon emissions. As Al Gore states in his book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, “Powerful industries affected by the proposed climate crisis solutions have used all the political tools at their disposal in opposition” (352). This, along with a broad complacency and contentment for “life as usual,” is the reason that there has been an overall lack in support on behalf of society for facing the climate change issue.

The why of a movement against concern over global climate change has been addressed, and we’ve seen how its effects create confusion about the causes of climate change, the next step is to ask how. How were these denialists able to disseminate such a convincing argument for mistrusting science? The answer is a confederacy. The aligned interests shared by the leaders of conglomerates working in fossil-fuel dependent systems, extracting, producing or transporting it, have united forces. With the clear goal of preserving capital, they have been able to make swift and strategic moves countering global climate change awareness. This is precisely what the progressive side is lacking. Because the environmentalists are working through mediums which are inherently protracted, peer-reviewed papers and creating consensus amongst scientific opinion, they are consistently out-maneuvered by the coalition of oil connoisseurs. Both fortunately and unfortunately, the mechanisms that are in place slowing the scientific process down are necessary to extract the most accurate information possible. Therefore, this system cannot be dramatically altered. However, the fragmentation that continues to exist amid interest groups trying to remedy this inequality is also at fault. If one is to “Google” global climate change solutions, besides noting that the first link is strategically by Chevron, he or she will see a long dissociated list of organizations. And although diversity is important in just about any other arena, it hasn’t worked well so far for progressives in global climate change. The fragmented environmental causes that operate in divorced realms of influence are no competition for the “well-oiled” machine that is industry interest.

A result of this fragmentation is an overall inability for environmental groups to sufficiently engage the public and successfully lobby policy makers for effective change. Legislation, if it even makes it through the jaws of Congress, is often watered down and ineffectual. In some cases, environmental legislation does more harm than good because there is the “feeling” that enough is being done, regardless of whether that is actually the case. Because policy makers are not one hundred percent behind it, environmental protection laws frequently offer little incentive for compliance and lack the regulation needed to induce significant change. It is for each of these key reasons, undoubtedly there are also others, that global climate change is not a priority in the United States of America. And rather than dwell on the depressing fact that our world is heating up, rising an estimated 1.8-4.0 degrees Celsius in the coming century according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change, this generation must be charged with the responsibility of how we are going to change that statistic. For that purpose, I will now outline a systematic plan for combating global climate change in the coming decades.

A systematic plan must inherently have several components built into it. Aside from having a complete understanding of the issue, which is described above, it must take approaches that are clear-cut and progressively follow one another. My systematic road-map proceeds as follows: renovation in education and a revolution in media spurs a shift in public sentiment, which modifies personal responsibility and spurs policy change, ultimately resulting in economic incentives. Economic incentives will then loop back around and fuel more revolutionary media. My road-map aims to address all of these criteria and follow a logical, albeit unconventional, train of thought.

The first logical step to addressing global climate change is to use the medium that is generally the most accepting of it: the classroom. Although global climate change has been refuted by certain academics, the checks-and-balances system that the scientific evidence must go through lends itself to being widely recognized in the academic community. Therefore, let us begin there. Educating children and youth about the effects of global climate change, and what they can do to help prevent it, may percolate through the household and reach other family members. Hopefully, educating this demographic will also prevent them from making the same mistakes that have been committed before their generation. But beyond the obvious educational steps we can take in grammar schools, let us think of what approaches can be made more immediately to retroactively educate people that are old enough to vote and substantially direct their households. Strategically, the United States is in a unique position regarding education because of the recent economic recession it has faced. More young adults and mid-career professionals are deciding to return to universities across the country to continue their education. This is an excellent window for the progressive front of global climate change to disseminate accurate information and excite individuals about the opportunities that exist in promoting this cause. As mid-level professionals and college graduates realize the shift that is occurring towards energy to be more “green,” they will begin to seek careers that allow them to apply environmentalist philosophies. Here we see direct economic incentives for individuals moving into an emerging market, renewable energies and carbon monitoring. I will touch on these further along in the paper.

Response towards global climate change must simultaneously be transformed in the media. This is a tricky scenario because although the media may direct the public’s attention in specific directions, it is also manipulated by what people want to hear. This creates a closed cycle of influence where both mediums cause and affect each other simultaneously. The question then is how to pierce this positive feedback loop and inject through the media revolutionary ideas concerning global climate change. What it takes is the aptitude of a handful of individuals with some manifestation of power. This power can derive from stardom, affluence, intelligence or any number of other factors. In fact, processes like this one have already begun with individuals such as Al Gore and his publication “An Inconvenient Truth.” Or take an ordinary and concerned citizen like Jody Williams, who after utilizing resources like email received the Nobel Peace Prize for her work on banning landmines. This example demonstrates that media does not only include the more commonly considered traditional forms, such as newspapers and broadcasts, but is now much more encompassing. Media manifests itself through international websites and blogs, through podcasts and independent radio. All of these channels must be utilized should the progressive movement against global climate change have any influence on public opinion. These are precisely the catalysts that must be used to tempt media coverage in order to draw attention to global climate change, there just needs to be more of them.

Another way of using the media to address the “life as usual” mentality practiced by the majority of North Americans is fundamentally different than the first. Historically, fear-mongering has been a tactic used by politicians to entice their population’s support for activities from compliance to invasion. The truth of the matter is that it is a highly successful tool in achieving an ends, albeit not always ethical. However, desperate times call for desperate measures and perhaps ethicists will overlook the methodology in light of the greater good. Frankly, the world does have reason to be scared and they should be aware of that fact. The proposal in this section is to replicate the denialysts stance in creating fear about a lack of oil, but instead making it a fear over the drastic climate changes that are exponentially more eminent. This methodology uses media in order to uproot our next topic, public sentiment. If people are scared enough, they will start making the necessary changes to slow global warming, now.

A shift in public sentiment is an underlying requirement for all subsequent steps to follow. It is essentially the most necessary of all the steps. Media is only important because it can elicit this shift. As was noted above, it is only as influential as the public allows it to be. Public sentiment can be seen as the tube connecting two bulbs of an hourglass. At the top there is media and education, which fed through public sentiment, produces personal responsibility and policy change. So what does public sentiment entail? Is it just about being aware that global warming is occurring or does it include something more? Peace Corps volunteers are stewards to preventing global warming. They focus on issues that directly contribute to global climate change, such as preventing “slash and burn” farming techniques and using green manures instead of chemical fertilizers. But volunteers are trained not to just teach how to plant green manures, they are trained to teach why they are important. Because if a farmer in southern Paraguay does not understand why she is planting green manures, she will probably not continue to do it long after the volunteer is gone. Comprehending the “why” is crucial in producing a shift in mind-set that induces habitual action. And habitual action is absolutely necessary in solving the global climate crisis.

North Americans consume too much. They waste too much and they do it cheaply. This must change. According to the interactive graphic provided by the Financial Times, the United States has only recently taken backseat to China in the main producer of carbon emissions, with an astounding 5.862 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2009. Personal responsibility is an important contributor to reducing greenhouse gases and slowing global warming. The average American added 23.5 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in 2007. There are an estimated 310,232,863 of us. That makes for a whole lot of carbon. We have the “largest and most technologically powerful economy in the world, with a per capita GDP of $46,400” and continue to be seen throughout the world as a dominant power. The change must begin with us. If Americans helped reduce the 13.1% that transportation currently contributes to greenhouse gas emissions by purchasing electric cars, markets would adjust to the increase in demand by decreasing the price. This will contribute to an even further reduction in the transport footprint. The same will happen with renewable energy sources, such as household solar photovoltaic panels. There have been significant movements in North America for eating products grown locally and reducing the emissions that are produced by transporting goods nationally and internationally. An even larger contributor to greenhouse gas emissions is the production and processing of meat. Not only does the methane gas produced in the ruminant stomachs of cattle and sheep contribute to total emissions, but the decomposition cattle waste also emits significant amounts into the atmosphere. In addition to this, the area needed to raise cattle depletes natural carbon dioxide sinks and puts pressure on land use so that farmers and other industries further contribute to deforestation. In 2009, 26.9 billion pounds of beef was consumed in the United States. Changing eating habits and consuming less or no beef at all will decrease supplier’s quota and greatly reduce greenhouse gas contributions. A shift in public sentiment will change society’s reaction to these digressions and informally enforce a public “code of conduct” regarding individual’s personal responsibility towards the environment. It is precisely what has happened with littering, and now there are laws against it.

This moves into the next topic of public sentiment eventually changing policy. In international law there exists law that is known as “customary law.” This is law that has not necessarily been codified but nonetheless exists because it is universally accepted and abided by. Although customary principles may apply to certain changes necessary for modifying global climate change, such as not leaving your lights on when you’re not home, it will certainly not address them all. Which is why policy change is required for enforcing gross crimes against environment, both nationally and abroad. One can rest assured that sufficient public sentiment towards reducing global warming does not yet exist in the United States. This is exemplified through the delay of legislation such as the American Climate and Energy Security Act, more commonly known as Waxman and Markey bill, in the United States Senate. However, regionally public attention is growing and in places such as California, pressures from interests groups and environmental lobbyists have produced change in public policy. A good example of this would be the California Assembly Bill 32 (AB32) which establishes the “first-in-the-world comprehensive program of regulatory and market mechanisms to achieve real, quantifiable, cost-effective reductions of greenhouse gases.” Serious progressive coalitions aligned, pooling resources from The Sierra Club to the Environmental Defense Fund, in order to rally support for this bill. This is an excellent example of the results of a unification of efforts that is aforementioned in this paper. The bottom line is that without their constituents behind them, legislatures will rarely have the fortitude to stand up and vote for environmental legislation, even if they know it is the right thing to do. This further reinforces the importance of public opinion on policy activity.

So in what ways can policy activity produce economic incentives to create a “Green Revolution?” The easiest concept to begin with is “Cap-and-Trade.” Cap-and-Trade is “an approach to limiting greenhouse gas emissions that sets a maximum level (a cap) for a region or nation that requires participating emitters to obtain permits to pollute. Companies or governmental jurisdictions with extra pollution permits can sell or trade them to parties whose permits are insufficient to cover their full emissions.” Cap-and-Trade is the most efficient way to get money into the hands of entrepreneurs that have shown expertise in the development of green technologies. These entrepreneurs will then use that capital in continuing to create innovative developments for even greener solutions. Cap-and-Trade policy, such as that advocated in the Waxman and Markey legislation, is supremely more economical than creating a tax solution for emissions because it avoids funds being tied up in bureaucratic channels and delivers them straight to the source of innovation. As a matter of fact, whereas some Californians were concerned that environmental policy was going to have negative effect on the local economy there, researchers are saying just the opposite. “The Air Resources Board's Nichols says that research shows California is ready to weather this transition. ‘This is the direction that our economy is moving in anyway, in the direction of more cleantech and more clean energy related jobs,’ she says.” Cap-and-Trade is in direct response to other “inherently inefficient and cumbersome ways to control pollution,” which failed “to deliver many of the environmental benefits promised.” These are most likely understood as weakly enforced taxes on toxin over-producers, which are seen by some as a hindrance to the divinity of deregulated market forces. This paper advocates a balance between the two, supporting market driven concepts such as Cap-and-Trade, but with strong regulatory capabilities made possible through legislation.

In conclusion, the “Green Revolution” has not yet taken place because of idleness in public support, fragmentation of progressive efforts and insufficient policy and economic incentive. Moving into the next decade, environmentalists and activists alike must focus on increasing education and radicalizing media concerning global climate change. They must do this in order to awake public sentiment and thereby entice personal responsibility and policy change. Finally, this policy change must be directed at laws which produce serious economic incentives such as “Cap and Trade.” Through the successful use of each of these avenues, we may rest assured that there is hope for the future of our global community.

Works Cited
Bernard, Steven, and Rob Minto and Valentina Romei. “Interactive graphic: carbon emissions past and projected.” 2009.
California Environmental Protection Agency. Air Resources Board. 25 July 2010.

Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook. 27 July 2010.

Google World Resources Institute. “Public Data Explorer.” 13 June 2010. 25 July 2010.

Gore, Al. Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis. Emmaus: Rodale, Inc., 2009.

Grabosky, Peter, and Neil Gunningham. “Smart regulation: designing environmental policy.” New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2004.

"The Nobel Peace Prize 1997." 1 Aug. 2010.

Peterson, Molly. “Air regulators' latest AB32 study predicts little overall impact on state's economy.” KPCC. 25 March 2010.

United States Department of Agriculture. “Economic Research Service.” U.S. Beef and Cattle Industry: Background Statistics and Information. 10 July 2010.

The World Watch Institute. State of the World 2009: Into a Warming World. Washington, D.C., 2009.