Our Health Care System Is Broken—Fixing It Is Not Hard

The following is an excerpt. Read the full article at MSN.

If only the health care system received the same treatment that military spending gets from politicians and the public.

By Sonali Kolhatkar

Americans are being slammed by a “tripledemic” this holiday season as three major respiratory illnesses—COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)—are spreading at indoor gatherings. Hospitals are once more in danger of running out of beds, and the Biden administration has revived a program to mail out free at-home COVID-19 testing kits. It seems that the United States has learned nothing from the early months of the pandemic when our health care system broke along the fissures created by corporate models of profit-based medicine.

Take the current shortage of antibiotics and other medications. Axios reported that “Parents have been calling [pharmacies and other health care providers], distraught over the trouble they’ve had securing everything from Children’s Tylenol to amoxicillin to Tamiflu.” Hospitals are also running out of drugs. The reason for this is that the pharmaceutical industry, which operates adjacent to the health care industry, functions on thin margins, producing just enough inventory based on projections in order to maximize profits and not overproduce items that may remain unsold. But when a crisis hits, the projected supply is outstripped by demand.

Another example is that of Ascension, a company most of us have never heard of but one that the New York Times described as “one of the country’s largest health systems.” Although it is technically a nonprofit company, Ascension operates like a for-profit corporation, cutting costs by cutting staff. This has left existing staff overstretched and exhausted, leading to mass resignations of nurses and other medical staff. According to the Times, “When the pandemic swamped hospitals with critically ill patients, their lean staffing went from a financial strength to a glaring weakness.”

Meanwhile, for those people lucky enough to have private or public health care coverage, out-of-pocket health costs have risen sharply. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released figures for 2021 showing that Americans spent an average of $12,914 per person for health care costs that were not covered by their plans. This is equivalent to 18.3 percent of the national gross domestic product (GDP).

Almost everyone agrees that our health care system is in dire need of an overhaul. But rather than seeing it as a problem that needs solving simply and efficiently, the system has become a target for capitalist opportunism.

Read more at MSN.

Sonali Kolhatkar is an award-winning multimedia journalist. She is the founder, host, and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a weekly television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. Her forthcoming book is Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (City Lights Books, 2023). She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute and the racial justice and civil liberties editor at Yes! Magazine. She serves as the co-director of the nonprofit solidarity organization the Afghan Women’s Mission and is a co-author of Bleeding Afghanistan. She also sits on the board of directors of Justice Action Center, an immigrant rights organization.

IMI Fellow Jeff Bryant Featured in Latest Lapham’s Quarterly

The following is an excerpt. Click here to read the full article.

How Can We Help?

By Jeff Bryant

Leslie Hu remembers the very day, a Thursday in March 2020, when her school, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Middle School, received word from the district office that Friday would be the last day the school would be physically open until further notice, because of the coronavirus epidemic. Without waiting for guidance, she and a few other staff members “immediately went into overdrive to connect with as many families as possible,” she tells me.

Working late into the evening, the staff members made “wellness calls” to deliver messages of care and reassurance. “Our message was ‘We are not abandoning you. What do you need? We still care,’ ” recalls Hu, a community-school coordinator and social worker.

The next day, they enlarged the circle of callers to include other staff members. By the following Wednesday, their wellness calls had reached nearly all of the 460 families with children at the school.

The outreach effort then expanded to more in-depth interview calls to stay connected to families handling the emergency. Within a month, they had reached out to every family.

Their efforts yielded critical information about how families were affected by the pandemic and what kinds of challenges they faced—such as whether a breadwinner had lost a job, whether the household had access to the internet, or whether the family was facing eviction. They also conveyed critical information to help families navigate the crisis, including how to pick up Wi-Fi hot spots and devices from the district; where there were open food pantries; and which local nonprofit organizations and community agencies were providing support for those dealing with financial difficulties and mental health issues.

“We knew there would be certain things our families probably needed,” Hu recalls. “But we didn’t make assumptions. We knew to ask open-ended questions.”

This outreach effort was so successful that, according to an article by the California Federation of Teachers, the San Francisco Board of Education used it as a model to create a district-­wide plan to establish permanent “coordinated care teams” for reaching out to families and checking on their well-being.

Read the rest at Lapham’s Quarterly.

Jeff Bryant is a writing fellow and chief correspondent for Our Schools. He is a communications consultant, freelance writer, advocacy journalist, and director of the Education Opportunity Network, a strategy and messaging center for progressive education policy. His award-winning commentary and reporting routinely appear in prominent online news outlets, and he speaks frequently at national events about public education policy. Follow him on Twitter @jeffbcdm.

Voting Booth in the 2022 Elections: A Roller Coaster for Democracy

By Steven Rosenfeld

Voting Booth is a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Voting Booth’s coverage of the 2022 general election focused on what ended up mattering most to voters: casting a ballot that would be accurately counted and defending democracy’s guardrails. Across America, voters rejected candidates who supported overturning past elections or gaming the rules for future elections.

As House January 6 committee hearings unfolded, Voting Booth noted how independent voters backed accountability for the Capitol riot and attempted coup. As summer progressed, Voting Booth turned to the evidence trail of accurate elections. And Voting Booth developed a popular guide explaining how the computer systems that analyze ballots and compile votes are set up and work. Voting Booth also noted how errors made by local officials in Michigan and Colorado were exploited by 2020 election deniers, including a cadre of self-appointed IT experts who never before examined voting systems.

Voting Booth was one of the first national media organizations to interview Adrian Fontes, a Democrat who ran 2020’s most scrutinized election—in Maricopa County, Arizona—who was just elected secretary of state. Voting Booth then turned to debunking false claims that were targeting voters, starting with mass registration challenges in Georgia (that ended up failing). And Voting Booth reported why new lies about 2020 from one of Arizona’s most notorious conspiracy theorists had no relation to the reality of voting.

In the final stretch, Voting Booth covered court cases that sided with voters and existing laws. Voting Booth covered a Nevada effort to replace the state-approved counting process with an untested hand count—a pro-Trump obsession. Longtime Republican county clerks described what it was like to be driven from office by neighbors who fell under the spell of right-wing media. Voting Booth reported on preparatory efforts by both election deniers and election officials, renewed attacks on voter rolls (this time in Arizona), and overclaiming about Election Day glitches (also Arizona).

Post-election, Voting Booth looked back and recounted how many media polls were wrong. Indeed, voters cared about who ran their elections and about protecting freedoms like abortion. As Voting Booth’s Steven Rosenfeld wrote, “democracy and freedom were not on the ballot, apparently, until it was discovered they were.”

Here are some of Voting Booth’s reports:

Elon Musk Plans to Profit From Twitter, Not Create a Town Square for Global Democracy

The following is an excerpt of an article that was originally published on Newsclick.
Click here to read the full article.

By Sonali Kolhatkar

The world’s richest man has bought one of the world’s most popular social media platforms. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, is currently worth about $210 billion, and in November 2021 he was worth nearly $300 billion—an unheard-of figure for any individual in human history. Not only does his wealth bode ill for democracy, considering the financial influence that he has over politics, but his acquisition of Twitter, a powerful opinion platform, as a private company also further cements his power.

To put his money into perspective, if Musk wanted to gift every single Twitter user $800, (given that Twitter has about 238 million regular users) he would still have about $20 billion left over to play with and never ever want for money. Musk’s greed is the central fact to keep in mind when attempting to predict what his ownership of Twitter means.

Musk has shrewdly fostered a reputation for being a genius, deserving of his obscene wealth. But his private texts during Twitter deal negotiations, recently revealed in court documents during legal wrangling over the sale, paint a picture of a simple mind unable to come to terms with his excess. His idea of “fun” is having “huge amounts of money” to play with.

And, he has an outsized opinion of himself. Billionaires like Musk see themselves as being the only ones capable of unleashing greatness in the world. He said as much in his letter to the Twitter board saying, “Twitter has extraordinary potential,” and adding, “I will unlock it.” Such hubris is only natural when one wields more financial power than the human brain is capable of coming to terms with.

Musk has also been adept at cultivating a reputation for having a purist approach to free speech, and diverting attention away from his wealth. Former president Donald Trump, who repeatedly violated Twitter’s standards before eventually being banned, said he’s “very happy that Twitter is now in sane hands.” Indeed, there is rampant speculation that Musk will reinstate Trump’s account.

But, Nora Benavidez, senior counsel and director of Digital Justice and Civil Rights at Free Press, said in an interview earlier this year that Musk is not as much of a free speech absolutist as he is “kind of an anything-goes-for-Twitter future CEO.”

She adds, “I think that vision is one in which he imagines social media moderation of content will just happen. But it doesn’t just happen by magic alone. It must have guardrails.”

Read more at Newsclick.

Sonali Kolhatkar is an award-winning multimedia journalist. She is the founder, host, and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a weekly television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. Her forthcoming book is Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (City Lights Books, 2023). She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute and the racial justice and civil liberties editor at Yes! Magazine. She serves as the co-director of the nonprofit solidarity organization the Afghan Women’s Mission and is a co-author of Bleeding Afghanistan. She also sits on the board of directors of Justice Action Center, an immigrant rights organization.

Billionaires’ Big Plans for Humanity’s Long-Term Future

The following is an excerpt of an article that was originally published on The New Republic.
Click here to read the full article.

Longtermists focus on ensuring humanity’s existence into the far future. But not without sacrifices in the present.

By Alexander Zaitchik

“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future” is a line sometimes attributed to Yogi Berra and sometimes to the Danish physicist Niels Bohr. Whoever said it first, or better, I’ll give it to the Dane. Bohr revealed the randomness and unknowability that defines that tiniest of time horizons, the movement of electrons, and his legacy is an exemplar of the paradox of progress. After helping the Allies win a nuclear arms race against the Nazis, Bohr tried and failed to stop another between Washington and Moscow, only to die of heart failure weeks after the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis, in somber accord with another Berra observation, this one uncontested, that the future ain’t what it used to be.

The tragic ironies and grim specters of Bohr’s generation haunt but don’t much disturb What We Owe the Future, William MacAskill’s contribution to longterm­ism—a small, well-funded, and stealthily influential movement based in his home institution, Oxford University. Longtermism, in its most distilled form, posits that one’s highest ethical duty in the present is to increase the odds, however slightly, of humanity’s long-term survival and the colonization of the Virgo supercluster of galaxies by our distant descendants. Since the distribution of intellectual and material resources is zero-sum, this requires making sacrifices in the present. These sacrifices are justified, argue the longtermists, because technological advance will in time produce such literally astronomical amounts of future “value” that the travails and sufferings of today’s meat-puppet humanity pale to near-insignificance. This overwhelming potential, writes MacAskill, creates an ethical mandate to abandon “the tyranny of the present over the future.”

The number of potential people who fill this theoretical future can’t be counted without recourse to the factored numbers that clutter so much longtermist literature. MacAskill dispenses with these in favor of three pages filled with the unisex bathroom symbol, each representing 10 billion people, to suggest the scope of the moral responsibility they impose upon us. “The future could be very big,” according to Mac­Askill. “It could also be very good—or very bad.” The good version, he argues, requires us to maintain and accelerate economic growth and technological progress, even at great cost, to facilitate the emergence of artificial intelligence that can, in turn, scale growth exponentially to fuel cosmic conquest by hyperintelligent beings who will possess only a remote ancestral relationship to homo sapiens.

With its blend of wild-eyed techno-optimism and utopianism, longtermism has emerged as the parlor philosophy of choice among the Silicon Valley jet-pack set. Mac­Askill’s colleague, the Swedish-born philosopher Nick Bostrom, drew attention in the early 2000s with his work developing the concept of “existential risk”—a philosophical frame that assesses the value and significance of events by how likely they are to secure or threaten humanity’s continued existence. In recent years, Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, and Skype founder Jaan Tallinn have all expressed interest in his ideas. In 2012, Tallinn co-founded the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at Cambridge University, and he has been a major donor to the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford, where Bostrom has worked on a longtermist research agenda.

MacAskill’s work has also found praise in Silicon Valley, with Elon Musk describing What We Owe the Future, in a typically self-regarding endorsement, as “a close match for my philosophy.” Of the many marquee-name blurbs and affirmations showered on the book, this one by the world’s richest person comes closest to suggesting the real significance of longterm­ism’s creeping influence. Because, for all its sci-fi flavorings, what commands attention to longtermism is not any compelling case for prioritizing the value of distant exoplanets and centuries, but the billionaire politics it seeks to impose on the rest of us.

Read more at The New Republic.

Alexander Zaitchik is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute and a freelance journalist based in New Orleans. His writing has appeared in the Nation, the New Republic, the Intercept, the Guardian, Rolling Stone, Foreign Policy, Vice and more. He is the author of several books, including Owning the Sun: A People’s History of Monopoly Medicine from Aspirin to COVID-19 (Counterpoint Press, 2022).

Human Prehistory—Why New Discoveries About Human Origins Open Up Revolutionary Possibilities

If you share a vision of educating the public about human origins, our transition to modern life, and behavioral biology, please get in touch ([email protected]).

Human Bridges’s early goals are in recruiting and cohering a group of experts from the fields of human biology, human origins, and anthropology who want to contribute their individual expertise to a wider accessible body of information, and enlist in the cause to make this material a staple of education at all stages of life.

Click here to read the article on Pressenza.

By Jan Ritch-Frel

Discoveries in the fields of human origins, paleoanthropology, cognitive science, and behavioral biology have accelerated in the past few decades. We occasionally bump into news reports that new findings have revolutionary implications for how humanity lives today—but the information for the most part is still packed obscurely in the worlds of science and academia.

Some experts have tried to make the work more accessible, but Deborah Barsky’s new book, Human Prehistory: Exploring the Past to Understand the Future (Cambridge University Press, 2022), is one of the most authoritative yet. The breadth and synthesis of the work are impressive, and Barsky’s highly original analysis on the subject—from the beginnings of culture to how humanity began to be alienated from the natural world—keeps the reader engaged throughout.

Long before Jane Goodall began telling the world we would do well to study our evolutionary origins and genetic cousins, it was a well-established philosophical creed that things go better for humanity the more we try to know ourselves.

Barsky, a researcher at the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution and associate professor at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) and Rovira i Virgili University in Tarragona, Spain, who came to this field through her decades of studying ancient stone tool technologies, writes early in her book that lessons learned from the remote past could guide our species toward a brighter future, but “that so much of the information that is amassed by prehistoric archeologists remains inaccessible to many people” and “appears far removed from our daily lives.” I reached out to Barsky in the early stage of her book launch to learn more.

Jan Ritch-Frel: What would you suggest a person consider as they hold a 450,000-year-old handaxe for the first time?

Deborah Barsky: I think everyone feels a deep-seated reverence when touching or holding such an ancient tool. Handaxes in particular carry so many powerful implications, including on the symbolic level. You have to imagine that these tear-shaped tools—the ultimate symbol of the Acheulian—appeared in Africa some 1.75 million years ago and that our ancestors continued creating and re-creating this same shape from that point onwards for more than a million and a half years!

These tools are the first ones recognized as having been made in accordance with a planned mental image. And they have an aesthetic quality, in that they present both bilateral and bifacial symmetry. Some handaxes were made in precious or even visually pleasing rock matrices and were shaped with great care and dexterity according to techniques developed in the longest-enduring cultural norm known to humankind.

And yet, in spite of so many years of studying handaxes, we still understand little about what they were used for, how they were used, and, perhaps most importantly, whether or not they carry with them some kind of symbolic significance that escapes us. There is no doubt that the human capacity to communicate through symbolism has been hugely transformative for our species.

Today we live in a world totally dependent on shared symbolic thought processes, where such constructs as national identity, monetary value, religion, and tradition, for example, have become essential to our survival. Complex educational systems have been created to initiate our children into mastering these constructed realities, integrating them as fully as possible into this system to favor their survival within the masses of our globalized world. In the handaxe we can see the first manifestations of this adaptive choice: to invest in developing symbolic thought. That choice has led us into the digital revolution that contemporary society is now undergoing. Yet, where all of this will lead us remains uncertain.

JRF: Your book shows that it is more helpful to us if we consider the human story and evolution as less of a straight line and more so as one that branches in different ways across time and geography. How can we explain the past to ourselves in a clear and useful way to understand the present?

DB: One of the first things I tell my students is that in the field of human prehistory, one must grow accustomed to information that is in a constant state of flux, as it changes in pace with new discoveries that are being made on nearly a daily basis.

It is also important to recognize that the pieces composing the puzzle of the human story are fragmentary, so that information is constantly changing as we fill in the gaps and ameliorate our capacity to interpret it. Although we favor scientific interpretations in all cases, we cannot escape the fact that our ideas are shaped by our own historical context—a situation that has impeded correct explanations of the archeological record in the past.

One example of this is our knowledge of the human family that has grown exponentially in the last quarter of a century thanks to new discoveries being made throughout the world. Our own genus, Homo, for example, now includes at least five new species, discovered only in this interim.

Meanwhile, genetic studies are taking major steps in advancing the ways we study ancient humans, helping to establish reliable reconstructions of the (now very bushy) family tree, and concretizing the fact that over millions of years multiple hominin species shared the same territories. This situation continued up until the later Paleolithic, when our own species interacted and even reproduced together with other hominins, as in the case of our encounters with the Neandertals in Eurasia, for example.

While there is much conjecture about this situation, we actually know little about the nature of these encounters: whether they were peaceful or violent; whether different hominins transmitted their technological know-how, shared territorial resources together, or decimated one another, perhaps engendering the first warlike behaviors.

One thing is sure: Homo sapiens remains the last representative of this long line of hominin ancestors and now demonstrates unprecedented planetary domination. Is this a Darwinian success story? Or is it a one-way ticket to the sixth extinction event—the first to be caused by humans—as we move into the Anthropocene Epoch?

In my book, I try to communicate this knowledge to readers so that they can better understand how past events have shaped not only our physical beings but also our inner worlds and the symbolic worlds we share with each other. It is only if we can understand when and how these important events took place—actually identify the tendencies and put them into perspective for what they truly are—that we will finally be the masters of our own destiny. Then we will be able to make choices on the levels that really count—not only for ourselves, but also for all life on the planet. Our technologies have undoubtedly alienated us from these realities, and it may be our destiny to continue to pursue life on digital and globalized levels. We can’t undo the present, but we can most certainly use this accumulated knowledge and technological capacity to create far more sustainable and “humane” lifeways.

JRF: How did you come to believe that stone toolmaking was the culprit for how we became alienated from the world we live in?

DB: My PhD research at Perpignan University in France was on the lithic assemblages from the Caune de l’Arago cave site in southern France, a site with numerous Acheulian habitation floors that have been dated to between 690,000 and 90,000 years ago. During the course of my doctoral research, I was given the exceptional opportunity to work on some older African and Eurasian sites. I began to actively collaborate in international and multidisciplinary teamwork (in the field and in the laboratory) and to study some of the oldest stone tool kits known to humankind in different areas of the world. This experience was an important turning point for me that subsequently shaped my career as I oriented my research more and more towards understanding these “first technologies.”

More recently, as a researcher at the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES-CERCA) in Tarragona, Spain, I continue to investigate the emergence of ancient human culture, in particular through the study of a number of major archeological sites attributed to the so-called “Oldowan” technocomplex (after the eponymous Olduvai Gorge Bed I sites in Tanzania). My teaching experience at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) and Rovira i Virgili University (Tarragona) helped me to articulate my findings through discussions and to further my research with students and colleagues.

Such ancient tool kits, some of which date to more than 2 million years ago, were made by the hands of hominins who were very different from ourselves, in a world that was very distinct from our own. They provide a window of opportunity through which to observe some of the cognitive processes employed by the early humans who made and used them. As I expanded my research, I discovered the surprising complexity of ancient stone toolmaking, eventually concluding that it was at the root of a major behavioral bifurcation that would utterly alter the evolutionary pathways taken by humankind.

Early hominins recognizing the advantages provided by toolmaking made the unconscious choice to invest more heavily in it, even as they gained time for more inventiveness. Oldowan tool kits are poorly standardized and contain large pounding implements, alongside small sharp-edged flakes that were certainly useful, among other things, for obtaining viscera and meat resources from animals that were scavenged as hominins competed with other large carnivores present in the paleolandscapes in which they lived. As hominins began to expand their technological know-how, successful resourcing of such protein-rich food was ideal for feeding the developing and energy-expensive brain.

Meanwhile, increased leisure time fueled human inventiveness, and stone tool production—and its associated behaviors—grew ever more complex, eventually requiring relatively heavy investments into teaching these technologies to enable them to pass onwards into each successive generation. This, in turn, established the foundations for the highly beneficial process of cumulative learning that was later coupled with symbolic thought processes such as language that would ultimately favor our capacity for exponential development. This also had huge implications, for example, in terms of the first inklings of what we call “tradition”—ways to make and do things—that are indeed the very building blocks of culture. In addition, neuroscientific experiments undertaken to study the brain synapses involved during toolmaking processes show that at least some basic forms of language were likely needed in order to communicate the technologies required to manufacture the more complex tools of the Acheulian (for example, handaxes).

Moreover, researchers have demonstrated that the areas of the brain activated during toolmaking are the same as those employed during abstract thought processes, including language and volumetric planning. I think that it is clear from this that the Oldowan can be seen as the start of a process that would eventually lead to the massive technosocial database that humanity now embraces and that continues to expand ever further in each successive generation, in a spiral of exponential technological and social creativity.

JRF: Did something indicate to you at the outset of your career that archeology and the study of human origins have a vital message for humanity now? You describe a conceptual process in your book whereby through studying our past, humanity can learn to “build up more viable and durable structural entities and behaviors in harmony with the environment and innocuous to other life forms.”

DB: I think most people who pursue a career in archeology do so because they feel passionate about exploring the human story in a tangible, scientific way. The first step, described in the introductory chapters of my book, is choosing from an ever-widening array of disciplines that contribute to the field today. From the onset, I was fascinated by the emergence and subsequent transformation of early technologies into culture. The first 3 million years of the human archeological record are almost exclusively represented by stone tools. These stone artifacts are complemented by other kinds of tools—especially in the later periods of the Paleolithic, when bone, antler, and ivory artifacts were common—alongside art and relatively clear habitational structures.

It is one thing to analyze a given set of stone tools made by long-extinct hominin cousins and quite another to ask what their transposed significance to contemporary society might be.

As I began to explore these questions more profoundly, numerous concrete applications did finally come to the fore, thus underpinning how data obtained from the prehistoric register is applicable when considering issues such as racism, climate change, and social inequality that plague the modern globalized world.

In my opinion, the invention and subsequent development of technology was the inflection point from which humanity was to diverge towards an alternative pathway from all other life forms on Earth. We now hold the responsibility to wield this power in ways that will be beneficial and sustainable to all life.

Click here to read the article on Pressenza.

Jan Ritch-Frel is the executive director of the Independent Media Institute.

600 Million Metric Tons of Plastic May Fill Oceans by 2036 If We Don’t Act Now

This article first appeared on Truthout and was produced in partnership with Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Fossil fuel stakeholders have been seeking new revenue in the petrochemical industry in general, and plastics in particular.

By Tina Casey

As the private transportation sector shifts focus to batteries, biofuels, and green hydrogen, fossil fuel stakeholders have been seeking new avenues of revenue in the petrochemical industry in general, and in plastics in particular. That’s bad news for a world already swimming—literally—in plastic pollution. Product manufacturers and other upstream forces could reverse the petrochemical trend, but only if they—along with policymakers, voters, and consumers—continue to push for real change beyond the business-as-usual strategy of only advocating for post-consumer recycling.

Plastic, Plastic Everywhere

Some signs of change are beginning to emerge. Public awareness is growing over the plastic pollution crisis, including the area of microplastics. A study commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund in 2020 found 86 percent of consumers in the United States were willing to support measures to cut down on plastic pollution, such as single-use plastic bag bans and increased recycling. Private sector efforts to reduce plastic packaging are also beginning to take effect.

However, these trends won’t necessarily lead to a global slowdown in plastic production or use, let alone a reversal. The United States, for example, is both a leading producer of plastic and the largest source of plastic waste in the world. The OECD estimates that, under a “business-as-usual” scenario, plastic waste will triple globally by 2060. Petrochemical producers are also eyeing growing markets in Asia and Africa.

Even if some nations kick the plastic habit, the global benefit of their efforts could easily be offset by rising demand for plastics elsewhere in the world. In a 2016 report titled, “The New Plastics Economy,” the World Economic Forum (WEF) noted that global plastic production totaled 311 million metric tons in 2014, up from just 15 million metric tons in 1964. The WEF also anticipated that the total plastic production would double to more than 600 million metric tons by 2036.

One key driver that is fueling plastic production is the increased availability of low-cost natural gas in the U.S., which was a result of the George W. Bush administration’s successful efforts to lift Clean Water Act protections on shale gas operations, resulting in “billions of gallons of toxic frack fluid from being regulated as industrial waste,” according to Greenpeace USA. By 2018, the shale gas boom of the early 2000s was credited with stimulating a decade-long petrochemical buildout in the U.S. totaling 333 chemical industry projects since 2010, with a cumulative value of $202.4 billion. Of interest from a global perspective, almost 70 percent of the financing was from direct or indirect foreign sources.

Another driving force on the supply side is the shift from crude oil (petrol) to oil for plastic production, a trend fostered in part by a glut of ethane produced by the fracking boom. The decarbonization of the transportation sector does not necessarily slow down crude oil production to refineries. “As traditional demands for oil—vehicle fuels—are declining as the transport sector is increasingly electrified, the oil industry is seeing plastics as a key output that can make up for losses in other markets,” noted a November 2021 article in the Conversation. Consequently, refiners are becoming more dependent on the petrochemical market.

Steppingstone to Change: Recycling

The impacts of plastic production and waste are already manifold, from the local destruction and greenhouse gas emissions caused by oil and gas drilling and refinery operations to the ever-increasing load of plastic waste in the environment including microparticles in the air, water, soil, food supply, and ultimately in the human body.

Plastic is also a major threat to wildlife, and in particular, marine species, as so much plastic waste ends up in the world’s oceans. Unless we take concrete steps and “change how we produce, use and dispose of plastic, the amount of plastic waste entering aquatic ecosystems could nearly triple from 9-14 million… [metric tons] per year in 2016 to a projected 23-37 million… [metric tons] per year by 2040,” according to the United Nations Environment Program.

Fossil energy stakeholders have long touted a downstream solution to reduce plastic pollution—namely, recycling. The generations-long failure of this strategy is all too obvious: As the United Nations Environment Program points out, “Of the seven billion tonnes of plastic waste generated globally so far [since the 1950s], less than 10 per cent has been recycled.” Despite recent advances in recycling technology, the amount of recycled plastic in the production stream mostly remains pitifully low across the world. Nations with lax environmental regulations—mainly poor countries—have become destinations for mountains of mismanaged plastic waste, in addition to bearing the weight of pollution related to plastic processing.

Recycling is still important, but the resolution of the plastic crisis requires swift and practical action several steps upstream, at the seats of source and demand.

Seeds of Change

Absent the political will to turn off the plastic spigot at the source, the task is left to supply chain stakeholders and individual consumers.

That is a monumental task, but not an insurmountable one. The rapid evolution of the renewable energy industry illustrates how the global economy can pivot into new models when bottom-line benefits are at play, along with policy goals and support from voters, consumers, and industry stakeholders.

In terms of reducing upstream consumption of petrochemicals, consumer sentiment can influence supply chain decisions, as demonstrated by three emerging trends that can drive the market for more sustainable products and packaging.

One trend is the growing level of public awareness of the ocean plastic crisis. Images of plastic-entangled turtles and other sea creatures can spark an emotional charge that gets more attention from consumers than street litter and landfills. The tourism, hospitality, and fishing industries are also among other stakeholders that have a direct interest in driving public awareness of ocean plastic.

In a related development, the public awareness factor has rippled into the activist investor movement, which is beginning to focus attention on the financial chain behind the petrochemical industry. In 2020 the organization Portfolio.earth, for example, launched a campaign on the role of banks in financing petrochemical operations.

The second trend that is gaining momentum is related to new recycling technology that enables manufacturers to replace virgin plastics with waste harvested from the ocean. However, this circular economy model must be implemented from cradle to grave and back again in order to prevent waste from ending up in the ocean, regardless of its content.

In a similar problem-solving vein, new technology for recycling carbon gas can provide manufacturers with new opportunities to build customer loyalty through climate action. The company LanzaTech provides a good example of growth in the area of recycling carbon. The company’s proprietary microbes are engineered to digest industrial waste gases or biogas. The process yields chemical building blocks for plastics as well as fuels. Other firms in this area are also harvesting ambient carbon from the air to produce plastics and synthetic fabrics, among other materials.

A third trend is the emergence of new technology that enables manufacturers to incorporate more recycled plastic into their supply chains overall. In the past, bottles and other products made from recycled plastics failed to meet durability expectations. Now manufacturers are beginning to choose from a new generation of recycled plastics that perform as well as, or better than, their virgin counterparts.

The problem is that all of these trends are only just starting to emerge as significant forces for change. In the meantime, fossil energy stakeholders have no meaningful incentive to pivot toward supporting a transition out of petrochemicals, let alone a rapid one.

In fact, for some legacy stakeholders, the renewable energy field appears to be an exercise in greenwashing. Shell is one example of an energy company that touts its wind and solar interests while expanding its petrochemical activities. An even more egregious example is ExxonMobil, which continues to publicize its long-running pursuit of algae biofuel, an area that is still years away from commercial development.

Until policymakers, voters, and consumers exercise their muscle to reduce plastic pollution at the source, the petrochemical industry will continue feeding the global plastic dependence regardless of the consequences for public health and planetary well-being.

This article first appeared on Truthout and was produced in partnership with Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Tina Casey has been writing about sustainability, the global energy transition, and related matters since 2009. She is a regular contributor to CleanTechnica and TriplePundit, where she also focuses on corporate social responsibility and social issues.

Earth | Food | Life (EFL) explores the critical and often interconnected issues facing the climate/environment, food/agriculture, and nature/animal rights, and champions action; specifically, how responsible citizens, voters, and consumers can help put society on an ethical path of sustainability that respects the rights of all species who call this planet home. EFL emphasizes the idea that everything is connected, so every decision matters.

Click here to support the work of EFL and the Independent Media Institute.

Questions, comments, suggestions, submissions? Contact EFL editor Reynard Loki at [email protected]. Follow EFL on Twitter @EarthFoodLife.

Connecting the Dots Between Climate Devastation and Fossil Fuel Profits

The following is an excerpt of an article that was originally published on Asia Times.
Click here to read the full article.

As Pakistan drowns, as Puerto Rico is cast into darkness, and as Jacksonians remain thirsty, it’s past time for a climate tax on fossil fuel companies.

By Sonali Kolhatkar

What do Pakistan, Puerto Rico, and Jackson, Mississippi, have in common? They’ve all recently experienced climate-related catastrophic rains and flooding, resulting in the loss of homes, electricity, and running water. But, even more importantly, they are all low-income regions inhabited by people of color—the prime victims of climate injustice. They face inaction from negligent governments and struggle to survive as fossil fuel companies reap massive profits—a status quo that United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called a “moral and economic madness.”

Pakistan, which relies on yearly monsoons to enrich its agricultural industry, has had unprecedented floods since June, impacting 30 million people and killing more than 1,500—a third of them children.

Zulfiqar Kunbhar, a Karachi-based journalist with expertise in climate coverage, explains that “things are very critical” in the rain-affected areas of his nation. Kunbhar has been visiting impacted regions and has seen firsthand the massive “agricultural loss and livelihood loss” among Pakistan’s farming communities.

Sindh, a low-lying province of Pakistan, is not only one of the most populous in the nation (Sindh is home to about 47 million people), but it also produces about a third of the agricultural produce, according to Kunbhar. Twenty years ago, Sindh was stricken with extreme drought. In the summer of 2022, it was drowning in chest-deep water.

The UN is warning that the water could take months to recede and that this poses serious health risks, as deadly diseases like cerebral malaria are emerging. Kunbhar summarizes that provinces like Sindh are facing both “the curse of nature” and government “mismanagement.”

Climate change plus government inaction on mitigation and resilience equals deadly consequences for the poor. This same equation plagues Puerto Rico, long relegated to the status of a United States territory. In September 2022, on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in 2017 and killed nearly 3,000 people, another storm named Fiona knocked out power for the entire region.

Read more at Asia Times.

Sonali Kolhatkar is an award-winning multimedia journalist. She is the founder, host, and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a weekly television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. Her forthcoming book is Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (City Lights Books, 2023). She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute and the racial justice and civil liberties editor at Yes! Magazine. She serves as the co-director of the nonprofit solidarity organization the Afghan Women’s Mission and is a co-author of Bleeding Afghanistan. She also sits on the board of directors of Justice Action Center, an immigrant rights organization.

The IMI Journal—September 2022 Edition: Plastics Pollution Is a Winnable Fight

The number of serious challenges a society faces at any given time can range in the dozens—citizens with the energy to help address them have to pick their battles, usually on the basis of emergency or opportunity. In the case of plastics pollution, it’s both.

The world has shown many signs of waking up to the reality that what was perceived as a wunderkind of a material is in fact a nerve poison, a hormone disruptor, and a carcinogen… toxic to all creatures. The well-meant but low-impact initiatives to reduce individual consumption are giving way in Europe and the U.S. to push for change where it matters most—regulating the manufacturers and their partners, the fossil fuel industry. The big organizations we have, such as the UN and the OECD, are finally getting on the case. It’s needed. All signs point to a sea change in human attitudes to plastics. There are no easy solutions to this complex problem, but reducing harmful plastics production is a realistic goal. And an important start is to interrogate corporate half-truths as well as untruths.

One element of the plastics paradox facing humanity that the industry’s corporate messaging campaigns have abused is that although plastics production is known to endanger our health, plastics are also used to fabricate tools and devices used by the medical, health, and laboratory industries, ranging from surgical gloves to single-use products used to prevent contamination and the spread of disease.

IMI’s Earth | Food | Life has been on the plastics beat for years now, and we were happy to get the work of Alice Mah, a professor of sociology at the University of Warwick, circulated into the media by producing and syndicating an adapted excerpt from her new book, Plastic Unlimited: How Corporations Are Fuelling the Ecological Crisis and What We Can Do About It. Read it. You’ll learn along the way that plastics manufacturers frequently “ignore issues of toxicity altogether.” Mah writes that “toxic hazards from plastics remain disproportionately located in minority, low-income, and working-class communities.” While some companies have been held accountable for negligent toxic waste and pollution, most continue with business as usual. “Despite the risks and negative social and environmental impacts,” Mah writes, “corporations across the plastics value chain will deploy whatever tactics they can in order to create, protect, and expand plastics markets.”

Look out for much more coverage from us on the topic, including the alternative materials humanity can make use of to replace plastic.

Meanwhile, don’t miss the great work coming out from IMI’s other projects, and the fantastic journalists and experts who contribute their work to them:

Pictured: Reynard Loki, Editor, Chief Correspondent and Writing Fellow

The self-destructive delusion that we are the only species that has a right to life on Earth is what has led to the ecological crisis, according to an excerpt adapted by Earth | Food | Life from Ways of Being Alive by Baptiste Morizot, a writer and lecturer in philosophy at Aix-Marseille University in France. It is precisely Western ‘naturalism’ that disrespects nonhuman animals and the entire natural world.

Morizot takes readers on an existential journey exploring how Western religion separated the environment from the divine, going so far as “to make Nature profane,” and leaving “human beings to find themselves as solitary travelers in the cosmos, surrounded by dumb, evil matter.” This limited mindset enables the exploitation of the Earth and its nonhuman living inhabitants for economic reasons—but it is based on a myth, one that takes “away from that world something it had always possessed.” The solution is to restore meaningful communication between ourselves and the living world, as Morizot writes: “The ever-intact enigma of being a human is richer and more poignant when we share it with other life forms in our great family, when we pay attention to them, and when we do justice to their otherness.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has failed the animals Congress intended to protect under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), writes Nancy Blaney, director of government affairs at the Animal Welfare Institute, writes Nancy Blaney, director of government affairs at the Animal Welfare Institute. Citing two high-profile examples of the USDA’s documentation of extensive animal suffering—Minnesota-based Moulton Chinchilla Ranch (MCR), the only USDA-licensed supplier of chinchillas for research, and Iowa dog breeder Daniel Gingerich—she writes, “there needs to be political will to ensure that the USDA will stop allowing facilities to remain persistently and egregiously out of compliance with the AWA regulations and start taking action sooner—not merely when a case becomes highly publicized.” From 2016 to 2020 (while Trump was in office), there was a 67 percent drop in the number of AWA inspections where citations were documented, according to the Animal Welfare Institute’s research. While more bills are being introduced to protect animals, such as the Animal Welfare Enforcement Improvement Act, protecting animals from unscrupulous dealers and closing loopholes in the USDA’s licensing process, animals deserve stronger protection with greater accountability for violators. “If the USDA continues to neglect its responsibilities, then the only way to adequately protect nonhuman animals may just be for Congress to empower another federal agency to safeguard animal welfare,” writes Blaney.

Pictured: Steven Rosenfeld, Editor, Chief Correspondent and Senior Writing Fellow

“Defeating Trump Republicans in 2022’s general election is seen by… advocates of fair elections and representative government as the most tangible line of defense before the 2024 presidential election,” writes Voting Booth’s Steven Rosenfeld. Momentum is growing for holding Donald Trump and his supporters in the Republican Party legally accountable for criminal activities tied to their effort to violently overturn the 2020 presidential election, and yet, scores of Trump Republican candidates still won’t accept the outcome.

Trump made a slew of Republican endorsements in the recent primaries, among them Harriet Hageman, who won Wyoming’s GOP House primary against one of Trump’s fiercest Republican critics, incumbent Rep. Liz Cheney. In GOP-majority state legislatures, Rosenfeld writes, some pro-Trump Republicans used lies that the 2020 election was stolen to demonize Democrats and to pass new laws criminalizing small errors in the bureaucratic tasks conducted by election workers and established get-out-the-vote routines by campaign volunteers. Violent threats against election officials have escalated. In Wisconsin, a Trump-supporting sheriff in suburban Racine County is refusing to investigate pro-Trump activists who forged online ballot requests, and more than 60 percent of secretary of state contests, whose responsibilities include overseeing elections, and 40 percent of races for governor and attorney general “currently have an… [election-denying] candidate on the ballot,” States United Action reported on July 28, underscoring their undeniable threat to democracy.

American voters have heard less about the Democratic candidates running against the election deniers, especially in battleground states. Rosenfeld spoke with Adrian Fontes, the Democratic nominee for secretary of state in Arizona, where election deniers recently won the GOP primary for governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. In 2020, Fontes was the top election administrator in Maricopa County, or greater Phoenix, which became a major target of Trump’s false claims and bad-faith post-election reviews. Fontes, who modernized Phoenix’s election system to help hundreds of thousands of voters during the pandemic and presidential election, shared his experience and message to Arizona voters.

Pictured: Sonali Kolhatkar, Chief Correspondent and Writing Fellow

Like Trump, far-right radio show host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones may be having his comeuppance, but also leaves behind a dangerous legacy. In the latest lawsuit brought against him by the parents of Sandy Hook victims for fueling speculation that the 2012 mass shooting at the elementary school was a hoax exploited to curb gun rights, a jury has awarded $4 million in damages to the parents of a 6-year-old killed at the Newtown, Connecticut, school. Economy for All chief correspondent Sonali Kolhatkar lays out a timeline showing how Jones has “been a central node in the constellation of far-right institutions that eroded an already fragile American democracy, feeding irrational paranoias and subverting the facts that undergird our shared reality.”

In brief, Kolhatkar’s outline begins with Jones’ promotion of the so-called “9/11 truth” movement, which paved the way for modern-day misinformation he continued to peddle. In 2015, Jones offered the power of his platform to help advance Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, leading to a presidency that further enriched billionaires and hurt middle-class and low-income Americans. And through Jones’ media empire and Infowars, Trump unleashed conspiracies about fake shootings and conned his supporters into believing that the 2020 election was stolen. Jones has capitalized on the public’s increasing mistrust of the government and once reportedly bragged to a filmmaker about his ability to sell anything to an audience he belittled. Understanding these links, the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol is apparently seeking Jones’ phone records, which provided crucial evidence during the defamation trial brought by Sandy Hook parents.

Progressive activists and organizers can take lessons from the victory for abortion access in Kansas, where nearly 60 percent of voters recently defeated a ban on the procedure, writes Kolhatkar in another EFA article. “Kansas is a classic example of the large distance between where the voters and the electorate are, and increasingly where their more extremist legislators are,” says Kelly Hall, executive director of the Fairness Project, a D.C.-based organization that promotes general economic and social justice throughout the U.S. by the use of ballot measures to circumvent deadlocks in law changes by the legislative and executive branches of government. Kolhatkar points out, “It was conservative legislators who placed the abortion ban on the ballot in Kansas” with the goal to solidify the federal anti-abortion victory won at the Supreme Court in the Dobbs decision. But they lost. The Kansas victory was achieved because abortion advocates “very successfully separated the issue they were asking voters to vote on from partisan identities,” says Hall. This means progressives should not dismiss those voters who are subjected to aggressive messaging and narratives from conservative politicians and media outlets against basic matters of fairness.

On issues such as economic justice or even abortion, “direct democratic control via ballot measures can be a way to break the political partisan gridlock and further a progressive agenda,” writes Kolhatkar. Not all states offer voters the chance to circumvent legislators, however; according to Hall, only 22 out of 50 states in the nation currently have ballot measure processes. Hall says her organization is working to “help local advocates at the state level and the municipal level know how the ballot measure works, how they can wield it, and support them.” That support, Hall adds, is both financial and advisory so that “when progressives put these issues on the ballot, they win.”

If you want to understand the extent to which markets function as the pillars of capitalist ideology, Richard D. Wolff breaks down the overarching mechanism into simple sequential formulas: from the distributions of goods and services and lenders and borrowers negotiating interest rates, to employers (under 1 percent of the population) deciding whether to respond to supply shortages by raising prices (causing inflation) or raising production. Market mechanisms and solutions are not neutral, nor are they uniquely fair and efficient. “In reality,” writes Wolff, “markets are useful institutions for capitalists to manipulate for profit. In ideology, markets are useful institutions for capitalists to celebrate as somehow ideal-for-everyone pathways to optimal efficiency.”

The IMI team is hard at work producing these and many other important stories. Please join us—media is often the starting point for the changes in the world we know that humanity needs.

And in case you missed it, here is more of our most recent work:

Will America See a Second Major Renewal of the Middle Class?

Thom Hartmann – September 6, 2022 – Economy for All

Dinner Versus the Truth: The Problem With Facebook’s Content Warnings

David Marten – September 6, 2022 – Earth | Food | Life

In Refusing to Prioritize Drivers’ Safety, UPS Risks Major Strike

Sonali Kolhatkar – September 6, 2022 – Economy for All

Our Schools fellow Jeff Bryant’s article for The Progressive: ‘How Progressives Can Win the War on Public Education’

Jeff Bryant – September 2, 2022 – Our Schools

Behind the ‘Economic Policy’ Façade, It’s Class War

Richard D. Wolff – August 31, 2022 – Economy for All

Joe Biden Could Have Gone a Lot Further on Student Loans

Sonali Kolhatkar – August 29, 2022 – Economy for All

Community Schools Can Revitalize the Neighborhoods Around Them

Jeff Bryant – August 28, 2022 – Our Schools

Are Community Schools the Last, Best Shot at Addressing Education Inequity?

Jeff Bryant – August 18, 2022 – Our Schools

Oakland-Based Cooperative Builds Community Through Collective Property Ownership

Aric Sleeper – August 11, 2022 – Local Peace Economy

Thanks from Jan Ritch-Frel and the rest of the IMI team.

The IMI Journal—August 2022 Edition: The Epicenter of the Elections Battle

It would be hard to dream up a more epitomized election matchup of our era—one of the great fiends to emerge from the Trump world election denier movement is running for secretary of state in Arizona, the officeholder who largely oversees the state election process, against one of the most effective and brave citizens who played a key role in protecting the integrity of our voting systems.

Voting Booth’s Steven Rosenfeld, who was the lead reporter to cover Adrian Fontes’ victory over the “cyber ninjas” in the 2020 elections aftermath, recently interviewed Fontes on his new election run as a Democrat against Republican nominee and Trump insurrectionist Mark Finchem, which could very well define Arizona’s electoral landscape for many state and federal elections to come.

Fontes tells Rosenfeld, “Winning back the confidence of the American people in our elections is not going to be easy, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy. It is critically important that we reach out to every corner of our political society during the course of this campaign and after. We’re going to have to be very cognizant of the ideas that have been put out there, whether they’re correct or incorrect. And we’re going to attack the lies with the truth and trust.”

Read more of Rosenfeld’s interview here—it’s just one of the important pieces of reporting and expertise produced in the past month by IMI’s amazing and talented writers.

Check out the rest below—I am always impressed by their work:

Pictured: Steven Rosenfeld, Editor, Chief Correspondent and Senior Writing Fellow

Steven Rosenfeld’s reporting on the January 6 House select committee hearings provides a glaring summary of former President Donald Trump’s deep ties to far-right militia leaders. Evidence showed Trump egging on his most belligerent loyalists at every turn, writes Rosenfeld, and “it was Trump who had been lying about the 2020 election and intentionally urging his followers—in state and federal government posts, and in the street—to disrupt a peaceful transfer of power to a new presidential administration.”

The remarks by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) outlined in “How the January 6 Committee Completed a Damning Indictment of Trump” capped a series of eight hearings insisting that Trump and his enablers be held accountable in court, ensuring that federal legislative reforms be adopted so a presidential coup never happens again. And while the select committee does not have the authority to prosecute Trump and his co-conspirators, the committee can make a powerful public case and create a template for criminal prosecutions.

The public has been paying a lot of attention to the hearings, according to Celinda Lake, a top Democratic pollster of Lake Research Partners, who explains how this could push independent voters away from the GOP: “Seventy percent of Americans agree with the statement, ‘I would not vote for anyone who’s supported or encouraged the attack on our country on January 6.’ That includes 97 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of independents, and 39 percent of Republicans.”

Pictured: Reynard Loki, Editor, Chief Correspondent and Writing Fellow

Trump’s corruption has infected many of the government bodies designed to protect the health and well-being of all Americans, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), writes criminologist Gregg Barak in an excerpt from his book Criminology on Trump (Routledge, 2022) produced for the web by Earth | Food | Life. Trump’s first EPA administrator Scott Pruitt was one of his most controversial appointments to a Cabinet-level position, embodying the White House’s broad support for the fossil fuel industry and disdain for climate science. Andrew Wheeler became the next administrator, ordering the EPA in June 2019 to terminate its funding to 13 health centers around the country that were studying the effects of pollution on the growth and development of children and other living things. And now with the Supreme Court ruling against the EPA on June 30—a 6-3 vote, with all three of Trump’s appointees voting with the conservative bloc—it is questionable that the Trumpian damage to the environment can be repaired.

If you’re feeling defeated by the Supreme Court’s EPA ruling, there’s still a lot we can do, writes EFL’s Reynard Loki. The U.S. is the world’s second-biggest consumer of energy and plays a central role in the global shift to a low-carbon—and ultimately, zero-carbon—economy. If solar and wind energy are fully integrated into the global energy mix, renewable sources could provide up to 80 percent of the world’s electricity. Even in the wake of the Trump administration’s environmental harm, the U.S. government is not without levers to transition to sustainable energy: President Biden can declare a climate emergency under the National Emergencies Act to curb fossil fuel exports. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill could enact far-reaching clean energy legislation—and could even amend Section 111 of the Clean Air Act to give the EPA explicit authority to move power plants toward renewables in order to meet federally mandated emission reductions. And like pro-choice supporters disappointed by the court’s recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, those who are concerned about the court’s EPA ruling could use this moment as a rallying cry to step up climate action.

By November 15, 2022, the human population will reach a new milestone: 8 billion people, according to the United Nations, a staggering figure that should alarm even the casual observer of the various environmental and health crises stemming from overpopulation. And yet the UN has advanced a false narrative, writes Carter Dillard, policy adviser for the Fair Start Movement. While the UN applauds lower mortality rates, we need to start getting real about population, Dillard emphasizes. The UN itself projects widespread famine and notes that inequality is growing for “more than 70 percent of the global population.” The people least responsible for the climate crisis—the poor and the vulnerable—are set to suffer the most, and yet many leaders in the rich world are pushing for policies that will exacerbate the crisis, with abortion bans on the rise across the United States, and some wealthy nations even offering their citizens financial incentives to have more babies. And as the difficult conversation about population is swept aside, the ecological and social resources necessary to support each human life cannot catch up.

Pictured: Sonali Kolhatkar, Chief Correspondent and Writing Fellow

The U.S. has no shortage of catastrophic emergencies, from climate change to gun violence, adding to its tally of preventable deaths—and yet the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade will add to it the casualties that will result from botched abortions, as Economy for All chief correspondent Sonali Kolhatkar observes in “The Selfish Politics of Anti-Abortionists.” Underlying the battle to ensure that anyone with a uterus will be forced to take a pregnancy to term is a general attitude shared with many other right-wing attacks: that the denial of rights will only affect someone else. One abortion provider told the Daily Beast, “All of us who do abortions see patients quite regularly who tell us, ‘I’m not pro-choice, but I just can’t continue this pregnancy.’” Those claiming to be against abortion often rely on being able to access the procedure when they need it—a common conservative approach to social needs.

In the meantime, the SCOTUS ruling in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency has lit our planet on fire, writes Economy for All fellow Thom Hartmann. The U.S. (with 4 percent of the world’s population) has produced more greenhouse gases than any other nation and continues to be one of the planet’s major emitters. Blowing up the EPA’s CO2 rules will guarantee the future profits of the fossil fuel industry and also speed up the destruction of our atmosphere and the life on Earth it supports. Justice Kagan, in her dissent, pointed out that the Republicans on the court have weakened the power to respond to “the most pressing environmental challenge of our time.” They’re saying, essentially, that the EPA (and any other regulatory agency) can’t be allowed to do its work: instead, that detailed and time-consuming analysis of a problem, developing specific solutions, and writing specific rules have to be done by Congress itself.

With all the controversial decisions handed down by the Supreme Court this term, the June 30 agreement to hear a case called Moore v. Harper could be among the most dangerous. In “America Is Occupied By a Dangerous Second Amendment Scam,” Hartmann writes that this decision underpins a major legal strategy in Trump’s attempted coup: the argument that state legislatures can substitute their own judgment of who should be president in place of the person chosen by a majority of voters. While the Constitution grants state legislatures the authority over when, where, and how elections are held, it does not give state legislatures total power over our democracy. For the last century, the Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected the independent state legislature theory, which would make it easier for state legislatures to pull all sorts of additional election chicanery without oversight from state courts: more voter suppression laws, gerrymandered maps, and laws eliminating the power of election commissions and secretaries of state to protect elections. Hartmann suggests that the way to fight back is for Congress to expand the Supreme Court and thus add balance to a branch of government hijacked by radicalized Republicans; impose term limits on Supreme Court justices and have them rotate with judges on the U.S. courts of appeals; and restore federal voting rights protections and expand access to the ballot box.

The IMI team is hard at work producing these and many other important stories. Please join us—media is often the starting point for the changes in the world we know are overdue, and we all want to see.

And in case you missed it, here is more of our most recent work:

The Truth About Markets, Pillar of Capitalist Ideology

Richard D. Wolff – August 10, 2022 – Economy for All

Pacific Islanders’ Food-Sharing Customs Ensure Resiliency in Face of Disaster

Stacy Jupiter, Teri Tuxson, Caroline Ferguson and Sangeeta Mangubhai – August 9, 2022 – Earth | Food | Life

How Alex Jones Helped Enrich the Global Elites He Railed Against

Sonali Kolhatkar – August 6, 2022 – Economy for All

Can We Stop the GOP From Killing Medicare, Social Security—and Us?

Thom Hartmann – August 6, 2022 – Economy for All

Trump Republicans Are a Greater Threat to Democracy Than Trump Himself

Steven Rosenfeld – August 2, 2022 – Voting Booth

As the War in Ukraine Devastates the Nation’s Ecosystems, the World Reaches Record-High Military Spending

Erika Schelby – August 2, 2022 – Earth | Food | Life

Could Voter Guides Help Break Through the Partisan Noise in the Midterm Elections?

Steven Rosenfeld – July 31, 2022 – Voting Booth

Can Global Food Shortages Be Prevented?

Thom Hartmann – July 31, 2022 – Economy for All

To Reduce Inflation, Control Corporate Profits

Sonali Kolhatkar – July 29, 2022 – Economy for All

Thanks from Jan Ritch-Frel and the rest of the IMI team.