The American Dream: Its Future? – News-Views Digest

Sustainability Education News-Views Digest

SEF News-Views Digest No. 137 (6-28-16)
Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher

Citizens for Sustainability: Meeting-Forum, Sat., July 19, 10am-noon, Silver Lake Village Community Center, 3301 Silver Lake Rd. Free & open to public.

The American DreamEver since America’s founding, “The American Dream” has become a popular social meme, expressed both by foreigners and native-born citizens who desire freedom and opportunities to enjoy a better life. But over the past five decades the dream has undergone a metamorphic decline, especially for the majority of working-class citizens, those who aspire to typical middle-class lifestyles. Future expectations for these folk have evolved, from optimistic dreams of great promise and hope, to pessimistic nightmares filled with dreadful uncertainty.

The first article in the Views section, “Globalization and The American Dream”, provides keen insight and supportive data about the disturbing psycho-emotional health of American youth. According to the article’s co-authors: “As it turns out, children in the U.S. are far from “confident, self-reliant, tolerant, generous, and future-oriented”. It’s disheartening to realize that more than 8.3 million American children and adolescents require psychiatric drugs; over 2 million are on anti-depressants, and another 2 million are on anti-anxiety drugs. Other observations include increasing symptoms of social breakdown, eating disorders (from anorexia to obesity), and violence, notably among boys.

Some explanations for these discouraging developments suggest an apparent lack of parental support, primarily due to heavy work schedules. Also, there’s a noticeable lack of positive role models (excluding popular celebrities) for youth, who are spending too much time absorbed in using electronic devices (cell phones, TV, video games, etc.), and not enough time outdoors exploring nature.

The authors claim that the major blame for these deplorable conditions may be attributed to the “artificial consumer culture” that has been created and promoted via corporate advertising and the media. This artificial culture is fundamentally different from the cultural diversity created throughout history, collectively shaped by climate, landscapes, flora and fauna. The dialogue between humans and the natural world has diminished, a phenomenon that has never happened before. Technological and economic forces now determine culture more than essential human values and ecological needs.

What’s more, the authors suggest that the American Dream has become extremely globalized, with most developing nations striving to replicate their perceptions of plush American lifestyles. Globalization’s economic manifestation is evident in the expanding divide between the world’s very rich few and the impoverished many. Note: The recent Brexit phenomenon has been mentioned prominently in the media as a public reaction to this problem. Working-class people in Britain, the U.S., and elsewhere are voicing strong objections to the negative economic effects caused by globalization. It appears as though a populist revolution is gaining momentum.

The second article in Views—“ The Rise of Corporatocracy”is also related to this topic: I urge you to read and ponder both of these stimulating articles. And if you find them worthy of sharing with others, please do.

SUSTAINABILITY VIEWS

> Local Futures: Globalization And The American Dream (Helena Norberg-Hodge, Steven Gorelick). For much of the world the American Dream is globalization’s ultimate endpoint. But If the American Dream isn’t working for America’s youth, why should it work for the world’s other children? While globalization systematically widens the gap between rich and poor, attempting in the name of equity to globalize the American standard of living is a fool’s errand. The earth is finite, and global economic activity has already outstripped the planet’s ability to provide resources and absorb wastes. It seems clear that what is often called ‘American culture’ is no longer a product of the American people: it is instead an artificial consumer culture created and projected by corporate advertising and media. This is a new phenomenon, something that has never happened before: a culture determined by technological and economic forces, rather than human and ecological needs.

> Global Research: The Rise Of The Corporatocracy (Graham Vanbergen). A troublesome picture of corporate power has emerged in recent years, with expanding corporate activity creating rising economic inequality. At the turn of the millennia there were around 40,000 worldwide corporations, but only 200 had true global reach and influence. These top 200 corporations are bigger than the combined economies of 182 countries and have twice the economic influence than 80 per cent of all humanity. Corporations now place their profits in ultra-low or no-tax jurisdictions, and their losses in high-tax ones, where an estimated $32 trillion is shielded from making any contribution to the societies they extract their wealth from, with little or no governing scrutiny. Globalization has continually compounded corporate power and consolidated its influential reach on global governance. What we now have is anarchy by very rich and powerful corporations, and democracy is threatened.

> Forbes: Unless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050 (Drew Hanen). Capitalism has generated massive wealth for some, but it’s devastated the planet and has failed to improve human wellbeing at scale.  Corporate capitalism is committed to the relentless pursuit of growth, even if it ravages the planet and threatens human health. We need to build a new system: one that will balance economic growth with sustainability and human flourishing. A new generation of companies is showing the way forward, infusing capitalism with fresh ideas.

> Desmog: If Facts Don’t Matter, What Does? (James Hogan). In describing the difference between messages and frames, cognitive scientist George Lakoff describes frames as metaphors and conceptual frameworks that we use to interpret and understand the world. They give meaning to the words we hear, because words don’t have objective meanings independent of these metaphors. Frames are structures of thought that we all use every day to determine meaning in our lives; frames govern how we act. They are ultimately a blend of feelings, values and data related to how we see the world. He believes that the progressive community contributes to confusion in the public square because of an outdated understanding of reason and consequent lack of persuasive communication. Just speaking the truth isn’t enough to convince people of new ideas. If facts are to make sense and be perceived as urgent, they must be framed in terms of deep, deep values.

> The Archdruid Report: In Praise Of The Reprehensible (John Michael Greer). Between the political correctness of the left and the patriotic correctness of the right, it’s hardly surprising that so many Americans stumble blindly toward the future in a fog of manufactured ignorance, sedulously shielded from the historical insights that could give them a clue about the troubled landscape about them or the looming disasters ahead. This week I’d like to discuss another aspect of that erasure of the past: the censoring of literature from the past in order to make it conform to the moral notions of the present. The capacity for critical thinking about whatever issue is in question—and that’s a capacity that can’t be produced without exposing people to the whole spectrum of ideas that relate to the issue, even those that happen to be offensive to modern sensibilities.

> Population Matters: Population Growth Exacerbates Desertification (Staff) June 17th has been the World Day to Combat Desertification since 1994. Today, desertification is increasing at an estimated 30 to 35 times the historic rate. As a result, around 50 million people may be displaced in the coming decade, the vast majority of them in the developing world. Unsustainable farming, overgrazing, mining and deforestation are all devastating for dry-land ecosystems. Population growth severely exacerbates desertification challenges. Globally, agricultural demand increases when population grows and people start consuming more farmed-animal products—a source of nutrition that is both space-inefficient and resource-inefficient. Improving irrigation techniques and reducing water use per capita will make a difference. Yet, reversing population growth—and thereby consumption growth—would relieve the strain on the ecosystem much further.

> Peak Prosperity: Fortunes Will Be Made & Lost When Capital Flees To Safety (Adam Taggart).  The Brexit message is simple: there’s a preponderance of data that shows the world’s major asset markets are dangerously overvalued. And when these asset bubbles start to burst, the ‘safe haven’ markets that investment capital will try to flee to are ridiculously small. Investors who do not start moving their capital in advance of crisis will be forced to pay much higher prices for safety—or may find they can’t get into these safe-haven markets at any price. See also Part 2: “How My Personal Portfolio Is Positioned Right Now”.

SUSTAINABILITY NEWS

> Weathering The Storm: The Perfect Storm: Progress Not Perfection  (Michael Conley). There’s good news and bad news. The bad news; the forces of the perfect storm are still roiling and growing. The good newsreally good newsis that we are at last awakening to the threat and taking constructive actions that could mitigate the storm’s sharper edges. The most encouraging sign, by far, is what seems to be a growing awareness that our current pathways are unsustainable. This awakening is a critical first step, and it is starting to generate a spirit of innovation, a willingness to change and constructive action steps on a number of fronts. We want to build on this momentum going forward with a greater emphasis on the positive developments we are seeing.

> AP-Daily Mail: The Hottest May In Modern History: Earth Breaks Heat Record For 13th Month In A Row (AP). Earth sizzled to its 13th straight month of record heat in May, but it wasn’t quite as much of an over-the-top scorcher as previous months, federal scientists say. Record May heat, from Alaska to India and especially in the oceans, put the global average temperature at 60.17 degrees Fahrenheit (15.65 degrees Celsius), according to NOAA. That’s 1.57 degrees (.87 degrees Celsius) above the 20th-century average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. There’s still a good chance that June will break records even as El Nino, one of two main reasons for record heat, dissipates, scientists say.

> Climate Progress: Record-Breaking Southwest Summers Will Likely Get Worse, Scientist Says (Alejandro Davila Fragoso). The southwest deserts of the United States are naturally hot this time of year, but this year the late spring heat climbed way past the normal averages in Phoenix and multiple other cities, prompting officials to issue an excessive heat warning for the deserts. Experts said last weekend’s weather was unusually hot, but a study released this month found that summers across the globe will almost certainly break more records more often in the coming decades as global warming continues. On Sunday, for instance, Phoenix reached 118 degrees, marking the 10th time this has happened since record keeping started in 1895. A study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, or NCAR, published last week found an 80-percent probability that any summer between 2061 and 2080 will be warmer than the hottest on record across the world’s land areas. See also: Scorching Hot Southwest Is Climate Change In Action (Huffington Post).

> Climate Central: Extreme Oil Prices May Be Costly To The Climate (Bobby Magill). When oil and gas prices go to extremes, such as when they crashed two years ago, scientists begin to look for answers about what those prices mean for climate changeespecially when cheap oil encourages people to guzzle more gasoline in less fuel-efficient vehicles. A new study shows that if oil and gas prices remain at either extremevery high or very lowfor long periods of time, they are likely to prevent countries from keeping global warming from exceeding 2°C (3.6°F). That’s especially the case if countries do not have climate policies, such as carbon pricing, that try to aggressively cap carbon emissions. The study says that the coupling of oil and gas prices in the future is uncertain. But if coupling continues through a decades-long period of very high oil prices, carbon emissions will rise because expensive natural gas will encourage more coal to be used for electricity.

> Grist: Fracking Produces Tons Of Radioactive Waste. What Should We Do With It? (Jie Jenny Zou). The rise of hydraulic fracturing over the past decade has created another boom: tons of radioactive materials experts call an “orphan” waste stream. No federal agency fully regulates oil and gas drilling byproducts—which include brine, sludge, rock, and soiled equipment—leaving tracking and handling to states that may be reluctant to alienate energy interests. Geologists have long known soil and rock contain naturally occurring radioactive materials that can become concentrated through activities like fracking, in which sand and chemicals are pumped thousands of feet underground to release oil and gas from tight rock. But concerns about fracking largely have focused on injection wells and seismic activity, with less attention paid to “hot” waste that arrives at landfills and sets off radiation alarms. See also: Oil Bust Leaves States With Massive Well Cleanup (AP Big Story).

> Daily KOS: A Haunting Silence Is Spreading Over The Natural World (Pakalolo). Climate change has brought entire natural habitats to complete silence. The song of birds, the croaking of frogs and the buzzing of insects have vanished in areas where climate change eco-system impacts kill species that are unable to evolve quickly enough to adjust to a rapidly changing environment. Species that can migrate are doing so in increasing numbers in a desperate effort to survive. Biophony specifically refers to the collective non-human sounds that occur in any given eco-system at any given time. It has provided scientific evidence to show that both global warming and other human endeavors have altered the sounds of nature. [Listen to 4 natural soundscapes comparisons of before and after climate change conditions]

> Inequality: Unequal States Of America (Chuck Collins). Just how unequal is your state, city and county? How much of your community’s income growth is flowing to the wealthy one percent? A new report, published by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), examines the share of income growth that flows to the wealthiest one percent in a number of jurisdictions. For the first time, the report documents income inequality at the city and county level, examining 916 metropolitan areas and over 3,000 counties. In Minnesota, for example, the average one-percenter’s annual income is $1,035,928, 19.7 times the income of the average citizen, which is $52,689. Nine states – including New York, Connecticut and Wyoming –have gaps that exceed 40 to one between the top 1 percent and the bottom 99 percent. Check the on-line interactive resource for your state.

> Common Dreams: Refugee Planet: There Have Never Been This Many Displaced People On Earth (Nadia Prupis).  An unprecedented 65.3 million people have been displaced around the world due to war and persecution, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) reported on June 20. The new figure is not only a 21st-century record, it is also the first time that the numbers have surpassed 60 million—which means one in every 113 people worldwide is now either an asylum-seeker, internally displaced, or a refugee, the UN said. Half of them are children.

SUSTAINABILITY SOLUTIONS

> Common Dreams: Pathways Of Transition To Agroecological Food Systems (Adam Parsons). A new report by The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) has provided another valuable assessment and set of recommendations that strengthen the case for a global transition towards food systems that diversifies production and nurtures the environment in holistic ways, rebuilding biodiversity and rehabilitating degraded land. The core of the challenge is not a lack of evidence, as the report authors have again made clear; it is the ideological support for an outmoded model of agriculture that continues to generate huge profits for the few, at the expense of long-term healthy agro-ecosystems and secure livelihoods.

> Resilience: The Forest Economy: Woodland As New Economy Metaphor (Rob Hopkins). As Bill Mollison wrote in ‘Permaculture: a Designers’ Manual’, “trees are, for the earth, the ultimate translators and moderators of incoming energy”. You can think of a forest as the most incredibly sophisticated water management system. Indeed, as you walk through a forest, all but 5-10% of what you’re looking at is water. Wild forests have evolved as incredibly sophisticated, self-organizing systems for holding and storing water and nutrients. Everything in the ecosystem acts as a good neighbor, stronger due to the diversity of what’s around it. Nothing is wasted. It’s a resilient system. In the event of a drought, a lack of input of water, it would survive so much longer than a monocultural field of crops or our more ‘tidy’ gardens. An ecological-minded economy can work in a similar fashion.

> Resilience: Presenting Our Renewable Future (David Fridley, Richard Heinberg). Post Carbon Fellows Fridley and Heinberg, co-authors of Our Renewable Future: Laying the Path for One Hundred Percent Clean Energy explore the future of clean energy and how a fully renewable energy supply will shape our lives and economy at this event recorded June 2, 2016 at SPUR Urban Center, San Francisco.

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> Green Tech Media: 72% Of Corporations Are Actively Procuring Clean Energy (Katherine Tweed). Cheaper renewable energy is allowing more corporations to look at options for generating their own power. But corporate sustainability mandates, rather than price alone, remain the primary driver of those purchasing decisions, according to a new survey from PWC. Seventy-two percent of companies surveyed said they are actively procuring renewable energy, mainly wind and solar. For those that are buying renewables, nearly half have specific renewable energy goals, although the attractive payback was the second-biggest driver for seeking out clean energy.

> Star Tribune: Minnesota ‘Forest Bathers’ Turn To Mother Nature For Healing (Alle Shah). Our industrialized lifestyle and increased reliance on technology have created what some are calling a nature deficit. Americans spend a whopping 87-percent of their time inside, on average, according to a 2001 survey by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Forest bathing” is a wellness trend that takes nature therapy to new heights; the practice involves consciously absorbing the sights, smells and sounds of nature, usually in a wooded setting. It can be performed solo or with a trained guide. A hit on the West Coast already, it’s just starting to catch on in Minnesota as a non-pharmaceutical treatment for ailments such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety issues and attention deficit disorder. Several studies have shown that spending time in nature can lower blood pressure and production of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as improving a person’s mood.

> Stillwater Gazette: Column: Protecting The Water We Drink (Angie Hong). In November, the Minnesota DNR approved a five-year plan for managing groundwater resources in the north and east metro in an area of the Twin Cities. There is cause for concern because Washington County, as well as a few Ramsey and Anoka communities, are 100% dependent on groundwater for drinking water, irrigation and industrial uses. As the area has grown, there have been more people using more water, and the result has been declining water levels in some portions of the aquifers. Though there is still plenty for us to drink, we have already begun to see impacts to some of the lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands that feed or are fed by groundwater. To help protect our water now and in the future, here are five things you should do: 1) use water wisely outside; 2) use water wisely inside; 3) build less impervious surfaces; 4) test private wells regularly; and 5) inspect and replace failing septic systems.

> Resilience: Feeding Cities From Within (Rachel Dring). You can’t stop an idea whose time has come, and as the Milan Pact suggests, we’re moving towards an era where urban agriculture is a critical contribution to a rich fabric of sustainable food production. Urban agriculture is sprouting up all over the world. Urbanites are taking the soil into their own hands and wrestling back control of food production. Urban agriculture is much more prevalent in developing nations. This often comes about through necessity, in response to economic breakdown, civil unrest or institutional decline, when incomes and food distribution systems are disrupted.

> Modern Farmer: This 700-Year-Old Farming Technique Can Make Super Fertile Soil (Dan Nosowitz). There are always things we can learn from very old agricultural techniques, including closed-loop farming or, as a new study shows, a 700-year-old soil enrichment method. People around the world live in tropical forests, and have had to figure out some way to make the soil actually productive. (The effects of the destruction of these forests on the eco-system notwithstanding.) One of the oldest techniques, long documented in the Amazon rainforest, is what’s known as “black earths” or “terra preta.” For hundreds of years, rainforest farmers have figured out that you can enrich soil with biochar: charcoal, basically. Wet vegetation is burned, producing little bits of charcoal, which are ground into the soil. Eventually, this creates an incredibly rich, fertile soil.

SUSTAINABILITY INFO & EVENTS

> Citizens for Sustainability: Monthly Forum-Meeting. July 9, 10 a.m.-noonSilver Lake Village Community Center, 3301 Silver Lake Rd.

Conversation Earth: Exploring Our Place on the Planet (Dave Gardner, Interviewer). This weekly Radio Series & Podcast provides surprising perspectives from leading thinkers on the most important issues of our time.

> MN Environmental Partnership (MEP) Upcoming Environmental Events. See website: http://www.mepartnership.org/events/ (search by month)

> MN350: Climate Campaigns And Projects. For a listing of campaigns, projects, and events, see: http://www.mn350.org/campaigns-projects/

> Clean Energy Resource Teams: Clean Energy Accelerator. Metro CERT – offering rapid energy assistance to cities, counties, & schools (http://www.cleanenergyresourceteams.org/accelerator/lugs).

> Climate Lab Book: Spiraling Global Temperatures. The animated spiral presents global temperature change in a visually appealing and straightforward way. The pace of change is immediately obvious, especially over the past few decades. The relationship between current global temperatures and the internationally discussed target limits are also clear without much complex interpretation needed.

>  The World Counts: World Population Clock Live – Population of the World Today. Watch the population increase minute by minute.

About Clifton Ware

Sustainability Education Forum Editor-Publisher Dr. Clifton Ware is an international figure in the world of voice pedagogy. During the the past fifty years of teaching students how to sing -- both nationally and internationally -- Clif developed his signature "Efficient and Authentic Voice Technique". What distinguishes his method is its holistic approach, simplicity, and effectiveness. Siingers find that they are able to ensure their vocal health while cultivating their own unique, expressive sound. This approach stands in sharp contrast to faddish techniques that encourage mimicking the vocalism, style, and qualities of other singers, possibly limiting their own vocal imprint and even harming their vocal instrument. The "Efficient and Authentic Voice Technique" produces singers that enjoy vocal power, range, ease, individuality, and a liberating learning process.

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