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12 Feb 19:30

tsabe:72 Degrees in the shade. The Animated Self Portrait  T.S...


72 Degrees in the shade.

The Animated Self Portrait 

T.S Abe

A little about the work _

72 degrees in the shade operates both literally (the shade in question) and metaphorically, referencing the song ‘96 degrees in the shade’ detailing an uprising that, whilst failing, arguably led to Jamaicas successful emancipation from the British Empire. In short, Resistance is FERTILE.

Originally conceived as a 360° rotation, the 15 frames begin inquisitively before turning away in disgust. It’s a look perfected fending off leeching males on the preternaturally deprived streets of Brixton, and is now reserved for classless men of all socioeconomic backgrounds. _

13 Feb 03:08



Marten's "I WILL DESTROY YOU" face is still kind of nice, but apparently effective.

07 Feb 20:39

February, 7th


Someone has been playing the Dr. McNinja card game, I think.

February, 7th

11 Feb 21:40

Seattle's Fight Against Sprawl, 20 Years On


I did a bunch of the analysis for this as a summer gig last year.

In 1992, then-Mayor Norm Rice announced a strategy to reduce urban sprawl in Seattle. The idea was to channel future growth into so-called "urban villages": walkable, affordable sections of the city that contained residential, commercial, and recreational structures. Now, 20 years after that plan's implementation in 1994, a new report says that it has been successful.

Well, mostly.

"The goal of directing the growth to the villages—spot on," says Peter Steinbrueck, the former Seattle city council member whose firm was commissioned to conduct the research. "What it didn’t accomplish was equitable distribution."

As a part of the urban village growth strategy, Seattle was divided into residential urban villages, hub urban villages, and urban centers based on density (from low to high). (Seattle Sustainable Neighborhoods Assessment Project)

Steinbrueck's firm analyzed neighborhood-level city-wide data and scored 10 of the 30 urban villages on 22 indicators. It found that between 1994 and 2014, 75 percent of the housing growth in the city occurred in the 30 urban villages, which means that the city achieved its biggest goal. Transit networks vastly improved, and eight of the 10 villages saw a significant rise in people taking public transport on weekdays. The villages hosted 80 percent of new jobs. Tree cover also increased.

But while urban villages seem to have exceeded their growth targets, others fell short of neighborhood targets, says Steinbrueck. Neighborhoods like North Beacon Hill and Westwood-Highland Park—areas with a majority of non-white residents—saw very small increases in population. Other areas, like Lake City, saw disproportionate growth (85 percent) in residents.

Some of Seattle's urban villages experienced more growth than others. (Seattle Sustainable Neighborhoods Assessment Project)

Overall job growth in the urban villages also missed its goals—especially in the post-recession period. The 56,594 new jobs created in these areas only met 38 percent of the 20-year target, and most of these were clustered around the dense downtown spots. More than half the people who worked in the city (62 percent) still commuted from outside it.

The 56,594 new jobs created in urban villages only met 38 percent of the 20-year target. (Seattle Sustainable Neighborhoods Assessment Project)

The analysis revealed that some of the villages still suffered from high rates of poverty and everything that comes with it—unemployment, poor public health, and low levels of education. At the same time, these areas weren't all financially neglected. For example, the Rainier Beach area was three times as poor as the West Seattle Junction area, but it saw one of the highest public investments in infrastructure between 2005 and 2010 relative to other urban villages.

Steinbrueck hopes the findings lead to more insight about the urban growth program so both policymakers and residents know which places deserve more attention and whether the money allocated is making a difference.

"The neighborhood-level data can serve to inform more of an acupuncture approach," he says.

11 Feb 17:24

Reductio Ad Absurdum

by Christopher Wright

If only.

10 Feb 05:01

It has lyrics

by Ian

It does indeed have lyrics.

It has lyrics

10 Feb 17:18


by Christopher Wright
09 Feb 02:28

Review: McAfee’s Benchmark Bourbon

by Jason Pyle

Has anyone ever seen this? I never have.

You’ve probably seen McAfee’s Benchmark Bourbon at your local liquor depot. If not, head to the Bourbon aisle, look a couple shelves down from eye level – there it is. As many times as I’ve scanned right over this bottle I’ve never purchased it before. I’ve had it a time or two here and there, and been asked my thoughts, but frankly couldn’t ever remember anything specific. It was time to give it a closer look as a we work to “keep it real” in 2015. Is it a bottom shelf gem or merely a solid cheap pour?

BENCHMARK NO 8 2McAfee’s Benchmark Old No. 8 Brand Bourbon, 40% abv (80 proof), $12/bottle
Color: Light Amber/Gold
Nose: Clean and fruity with notes of vanilla, dried apricot, sweet orange, corn oil, and honey.
Palate: Straight forward – Vanilla, light caramel sweetness and bright fruit.
Finish: Vanilla, fruit and faint spice – finish drops off quickly.
Overall: Benchmark bourbon is a light, bright bourbon produced by Buffalo Trace. It’s an easy, pleasant sip, but doesn’t bring much flavor to the party. While rather cheap, there are other bourbons in the $11-$15 range that are better pours.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 7.4 (Good)

09 Feb 16:00

Unprecedented Yet Inevitable

by Christopher Wright

Image seems broken, but worth the clickthru

31 Jan 02:08

How an Amish missionary caused 2014's massive measles outbreak - Vox

by hodad


Last year was terrible for measles in the United States: there were 644 cases — the highest annual caseload in two decades. Granola-crunching Californians, wealthy Oregonians, and Jenny McCarthy anti-vaccine acolytes have taken much of the blame for this spike. The Washington Post even pointed to Orange County — the location of the current Disneyland outbreak — as "Ground Zero in our current epidemic of anti-vaccine hysteria."

But that's wrong. The real story behind the 2014 outbreak isn't on the West Coast. It's in Ohio Amish country, where a missionary returning from the Philippines turned an otherwise unremarkable year for this virus into one of the worst in recent history.

measles ohio chart

<img alt="measles ohio chart" src="">

That's where Jacqueline Fletcher, the public health nursing director for Ohio's Knox County, got a terrible call from a pay phone last April.

A member of the local Amish community was on the line. There was a potential measles outbreak in the town, the woman said, and the public health department should know.

Fletcher's first thought was, "Oh, shit." For a health worker, this was a nightmare scenario. She couldn't just call the woman back or ring up other potential victims; they didn't have phone numbers. This Amish community, like others in the United States, eschews the conveniences of modern technology.

"We don't have any internet or computer. We don't have a car," Ivan Miller, an Amish furniture store owner in the community struck by measles, explained. "It's not that we feel a car is wrong. It's our choice because we feel if we had a car, it would bring us to a lot more temptations in the world."


<img alt="vaccine" src="">

Read more:

9 things everyone should know about measles

The scariest fact about the Disneyland measles outbreak

Everything you need to know about vaccines

At the time, this Amish population was generally against vaccination. This, however, wasn't a matter of religious principle but one of health concerns.

In the 1990s, Miller explained, two Ohio kids allegedly got sick after they took the MMR shot, which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella. Rumors about vaccine safety spread through the Amish community like a virus. "That put a scare in us and we quit," Miller says. This made it incredibly easy for measles — the most contagious virus known to man — to move through this cluster of unvaccinated individuals.

Fletcher had been with the Knox health department for 29 years. And she'd never seen anything like what she found in some of the Amish households she visited, trying to get a sense of the outbreak's size — and stop its spread. "There was a household that had six adolescent teenage children with measles, all sitting in the dark," she says. They were covered in the spotty rash that's characteristic of the virus, miserable, and sick. It was a scene from the last century.

The outbreak that Fletcher spent months working to contain ultimately infected 382 Amish Ohioans by the time it was declared over in August of last year. Nobody died, but nine wound up in the hospital with more serious symptoms.

"We had never seen a case of measles before this," Fletcher says. "I just remember a man from the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] saying to me, 'You have got to get ahead of this.'"

Unvaccinated travelers drive measles outbreaks

Last summer, a team of researchers got together to try and understand an alarming trend: why had so many measles cases popped up recently?

In 2000, the federal government declared that the United States had eliminated the disease: enough people were immunized that outbreaks were uncommon, and deaths from measles were scarcely heard of.

But in the first half of 2014 alone, there were 288 cases. And nearly all of them, the CDC researchers wrote in findings published last June, stemmed from Americans traveling abroad and returning with the disease.

"Of the 288 cases, 280 (97 percent) were associated with importations from at least 18 countries," they wrote. Many of these travelers were coming back from the Philippines, which has been dealing with a massive outbreak since fall 2013.

"What we've seen — since the epidemic of measles was interrupted in 2000 — is that we are continually getting measles coming in from overseas," says Jane Seward, deputy director of the viral diseases division at the CDC. "More often than not, it's US residents who go overseas for a trip — to say, Europe, where they don't think they need to be vaccinated. They bring measles back."

"A perfect storm" in Ohio

Measles cases in Ohio Counties <img alt="Measles cases in Ohio Counties" src="">

In the Ohio case, "patient zero" had traveled to the Philippines on a missionary trip. (In case you were wondering, he took a plane. Miller explained, "Some Amish fly. Some don't.") At the time, the Philippines happened to be facing a massive measles outbreak, with tens of thousands of cases.

When he returned to Ohio, and fell ill, a doctor misdiagnosed him with Dengue fever, so he continued to pass his disease along to friends and neighbors, many of whom had refused the vaccine out of those concerns over adverse effects.

Fletcher describes it as a "perfect storm:" an unimmunized traveler going to a place with an outbreak and bringing an infectious disease back to an unprotected community.

Measles is one of the most contagious viruses ever discovered. In most cases, it's not deadly, but it's almost always debilitating, bringing on a weeks-long fever, rash, and painful, watery eyes. Up to forty percent of people experience serious complications, such as pneumonia and encephalitis (or swelling of the brain). One or two children in 1,000 die.

The most remarkable thing about the virus, however, is that it's incredibly indestructible. A person with measles can cough in a room, leave, and — if you were unvaccinated — hours later, you can catch the virus from the droplets in the air that they left behind. No other virus can do that. It also lives on surfaces for hours, finding new hosts in the unimmunized.

"Measles is very contagious, so once [the Ohio missionary] felt better, he went to church, and the church was in somebody's house," Fletcher says. "The majority of those first cases, we linked back to him. They had all attended church in that house."

"There was a household with six adolescent teenagers with measles, all sitting in the dark."

Then, there were obstacles specific to tracing a disease through an Amish community. Trying to reach everyone who might have been exposed to the disease and get them into quarantine so they couldn't spread the infection further required a level of gumshoeing nearly reminiscent of searching out Ebola victims in rural West Africa.

"Because the Amish don't have phones, we had to go out to their homes," she says. "We're a small health department in a rural area. It was a lot of work."

Fletcher and her team patiently went door to door, collecting specimens, educating people about vaccines, making sure the vulnerable — pregnant women and small babies too young to get vaccinated — were safe from harm. CDC officials even flew in to support the effort.

An Amish man travels to the Philippines...

The actual story of the 2014 outbreak complicates the narrative that has developed in the wake of the new outbreak of measles at Disneyland in early 2015: that a growing number of parents, led by Jenny McCarthy, have begun to opt their kids out of vaccinations, letting the disease spread easily.

Federal data shows no drop off in vaccination rates over the past decade

In fact, it's only about two percent of the population that refuses vaccines outright. All 50 states have had school immunization requirements since the early 1980s, though some now allow medical and philosophical exemptions. Even so, there hasn't been a drop off in vaccination rates in the past decade, the National Immunization Survey shows. Coverage for the MMR vaccine stands at 92 percent.

It's not actually a rising anti-vaxx tide or naturopathic, private school mothers driving a return of vaccine-preventable disease here. It's not even low-income folks who wind up getting sick, and it's especially not undocumented migrants bringing in viruses, the CDC's Seward says: "The people getting measles are those that travel abroad, come back, and live in a community among people who weren't vaccinated."

Some years, we get 40 "importations." Last year, there were about 65. "This is more than normal," she added, "and it reflects travel patterns and where measles is active globally."

The travelers spark outbreaks when they hit geographic clusters of unvaccinated people, like the one in Ohio. These infectious disease powder kegs exist all across the US, waiting to be sparked. Their low rates of vaccine coverage are hidden in the statistics about national averages, and they are by no means guided by a singular ideology. They may be the hesitant Amish of Ohio, vaccine-opposing Christian Scientists, or simply worried parents who delay immunizing their kids.

Last year, the Amish outbreak in the United States mirrored an uptick in Canadian cases. A population of Christian Dutch Reformers in British Columbia, which had refused vaccines out of concerns over safety, drove an outbreak of more than 400 measles cases. According to the World Health Organization, there were only 512 cases in Canada in total last year.

Miller, the Ohio furniture-store owner, says the measles episode in Knox changed his mind about the MMR vaccine. His wife got a bad case, and so did his son-in-law. "On their worst days, we were wondering if they're going to make it," he says.

"We all took the vaccine after that. I had one shot, and I still took the other one and we had all our kids vaccinated, too. After people saw how sick people got, they changed their minds."

Original Source

06 Feb 14:51

The Pre-Emptive Strike

by Christopher Wright
06 Feb 04:20

A Healthful Release of Bad Humors


Yes it does.

sleep is dumb
05 Feb 08:00

The Inevitable Result

by Christopher Wright
05 Feb 04:54

No Moods, Ads or Cutesy Fucking Icons (Re-reloaded)


Peter Watts is the grimmest optimist I am aware of.

The Slippery Step-Function: Or, Reasons to be Cheerful.

Really, not so much.

Really, not so much.

An overseas pixel-pal sent me a link to a Daily Mail (UK) piece on the Davos Forum a few days back. I think he expected me to be tickled by the second half of the headline:

Harvard professors warn ‘privacy is dead’ and predict mosquito-sized robots that steal samples of your DNA

—but predictably, it was the front end of that sentence that got under my skin. And on the off chance that the headline hadn’t hammered the point home with sufficient force, the bullet points beneath beat the horse to death:

  • Researchers told Davos that privacy is already non existent
  • Say technology will allow governments and insurance firms to steal DNA
  • Also claims the same technology could help eradicate disease

It’s a tired old story— or at least it seems old, possibly because we’ve heard it so many times. Hell, you’ve heard it repeatedly even here: about that story in Wired, the self-proclaimed cutting-edge voice of the tech-savvy, offering up a token lament for the Cloud’s lack of security before telling us all that there’s no going back so we might as well just get used to it. Robert Sawyer debating at the Gallen Symposium, leading off with Scott McNealy’s infamous claim that “You already have zero privacy: get over it”, and proceeding to claim that this was a good thing, something that would make the world a better place.   (And let’s not forget our old buddy David Brin.)  But the Daily Mail’s bullet points— and the story that followed— show pretty much the textbook talking points you’ll find in all such arguments:

  1. You have no privacy;
  2. There’s no way to regain your privacy;
  3. But hey, that’s actually a good thing! Think of all the great travel recommendations Google will be able to serve up, once it can read your mind! Think of all the diseases we can cure and contain, now that everyone is being tracked! Think of all the lost puppies we can find!
Third one from the left, actually.

Third one from the left, actually.

It’s especially easy, these days, to believe the first two points at least. Over in the UK, after the overwhelming rejection of the so-called “Snooper’s Charter”— a law that would have forced ISPs to monitor their customers’ online activity and turn it over to pretty much anyone who dressed up like one of the Village People— politicians are still trying to sneak the same damn provisions into different pieces of legislation, hoping that one of these days no one will notice. Here in Canada, the Harper Administration has just tabled a new Bill to Keep Us Safe From Jihadists by, among other things, expanding the surveillance state, reducing civil rights protections, and making it illegal to “promote terrorism” online (which is especially troubling when you remember that “terrorists” include everyone from Hamas to animal-rights activists, depending on which politician you ask). I was chuffed, earlier this week, to see Techdirt harken back to the fears I posted last October on this very ‘crawl. I only wish it had been under happier circumstances.

Naturally, all this extra power comes 100% Oversight-free!, which should be a surprise to no one. What’s more interesting, perhaps, is that CSIS (Canada’s spy agency) is not getting any extra money to go along with the bigger club. They’ve already admitted that they don’t have anywhere near the budget to deal with their current watchlist; there’d seem little point in giving them even more tewwowists to spy on when they can’t handle those already on their plate. This has led some to suggest that the bill is more about electioneering than security, that its purpose is to make anyone who opposes it look “weak on terror” in an election year. It’s not really meant to work.

Perhaps. But that presupposes that Islamic extremists are actually the target of the legislation, and not just the pretext. You don’t need a greatly expanded budget if you’re going after, oh, for example, Amnesty International volunteers, or environmental activists.

Plenty of people have called Harper evil. I don’t know of anyone who ever called him stupid.

Meanwhile, down in the US— the country that started it all, with its pervasive and mind-boggling surveillance of friend and foe alike— those in power are finally talking about passing laws to rein in unchecked— well, encryption, actually. Because they don’t like it when they can’t spy on us, and they especially don’t like it when companies like Apple and Google— late to the party as they may be— finally wake up to the fact that there are better ways to attract customers than selling them out to every Sheriff Bubba who knocks at the door without a warrant. They don’t like the fact that end-to-end encryption is catching on, that the system is reconfiguring itself so that admins won’t be physically able to comply with Bubba even if they want to. The FBI wants to ban encryption, at least the gummint-proof kind. The Justice Department fears that giving citizens too much privacy will result in a “zone of lawlessness” in which bogeymen might flourish. “Tor obviously was created with good intentions,” admits Leslie Caldwell, assistant attorney general, “but it’s a huge problem for law enforcement. There are a lot of online supermarkets where you can do anything from purchase heroin to buy guns to hire somebody to kill somebody, there are murder for hire sites.”

It’s the go-to rationale for every peeping tom without a warrant: what if terrorists are planning their next daycare-center bombing on bittorrent? What if the plans for the next Parliament shoot-up are right there in someone’s iPhone and we can’t see them? Don’t you know that TOR is 80% pedophiles?

Won’t someone think of the children?

You have to admit: as hypothetical arguments go, it’s pretty much unassailable. If we can’t unlock all the doors, how do we stop evildoers from plotting behind them? The problem is that this argument applies as much to literal doors as to metaphoric ones. There’s no difference in logical structure between Tewwowists might be plotting via encrypted emails and Tewwowists might be plotting in your kitchen. If you agree that the spectre of potential evildoing is sufficient cause to let the government go through your mail without a warrant, how can you then deny them the right to check out your basement on a whim? Are evil deeds are any less nefarious when plotted offline?

It’s worse than a slippery slope. It’s a slippery step-function; the first concession gives everything away.

Which leads to a simple metric I use to assess the claims put forth by wannabe surveillers: simply relocate the argument from cyber- to meatspace, and see how it holds up. For example, Leslie Caldwell’s forebodings about online “zones of lawlessness” would be rendered thusly:

Caldwell also raised fresh alarms about curtains on windows and locks on bathroom doors, both of which officials say make it easier for criminals to hide their activity. “Bathroom doors obviously were created with good intentions, but are a huge problem for law enforcement. There are a lot of windowless basements and bathrooms where you can do anything from purchase heroin to buy guns to hire somebody to kill somebody”

If you remain comfortable with such arguments even when brought down to earth— well, enjoy the Panopticon. I know a few SF writers whose work you might like.

And yet, oddly, I take heart from these things.

I take heart from the fact that the the Free World is trying to curtail freedom at every turn. I take heart from the endless attempts of the UK, the US, and Canada to pry into our private lives and put webcams in our toilets (because you never know when someone might try to avoid prosecution by flushing a bag of coke down the john, you know). I take heart from PRISM and the Snooper’s Charter and Bill-C-whatever-number-they’re-up-to-this-week— because they put the lie to those stories in Wired and the Daily Mail and the New York Times, they put the lie to all those journos and pundits who would tell us that privacy is dead. It gives me hope.

Because if privacy really was dead, why would so many be trying so hard to kill it?

05 Feb 03:42

China’s Pearl River Delta Overtakes Tokyo as World’s Largest Urban Area

The Pearl River Delta’s urban growth in 1973 and 2003. Image © Flicker CC user NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

China’s Pearl River Delta has surpassed Tokyo in both size and population, making it the largest urban area in the world, according to the World Bank. The colossal megapolis – a conglomerate of several cities, including Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Foshan and Dongguan – is a central component to China’s manufacturing and trade industries.

It is now home to 42 million – more people than the countries of Canada, Argentina or Australia. And, considering nearly two-thirds of the East Asia region’s population (64%) is still “non-urban,” the area is expected to grow exponentially.

Warning of the potential consequences of unplanned growth, the report made a case for affordable housing and efficient public transport as a way to avoid the increase of inequality, stating: “While this transformation is going on, there is still an opportunity to set the course of urbanization on a more sustainable and equitable path… Within a few decades, this window of opportunity will close, and future generations will be left to deal with the consequences of how we urbanize today.”

Pearl River Delta is one of eight megacities in the region of more than 10 million people: the Pearl River Delta, Shanghai and Beijing in China; Tokyo and Osaka in Japan; and Jakarta, Seoul and Manila. Several hundred million will be relocating to cities within the region over the next 20 years.

Read the complete report, here.

04 Feb 16:25

HBO May Do a Napoleon Miniseries

by Delia Paunescu

Minor moment of triumph. via Coop.

Expanding on the tried-and-true historical miniseries that makes premium cable subscribers swoon, Variety reports that HBO is in talks to take on the story of Napoleon's life (not to be confused with a film on the same topic that's also in the works right now). Since this isn't just any ... More »

04 Feb 08:00

Pro and Con

by Christopher Wright
04 Feb 05:41

A Critique, Not a Program: For a Non-Primitivist Anti-Civilization Critique


Indulging my anti-civilization bent.

So the anarchist individualist as I mean it has nothing to wait for [...] I already considered myself an anarchist and could not wait for the collective revolution to rebel myself or for communism to obtain my freedom.

— Renzo Novatore

I conceive of anarchism from the side of destruction. This is what its aristocratic logic consists of. Destruction! here is the real beauty of anarchism. I want to destroy all the things that enslave me, enervate me, and repress my desires, I want to leave them all behind me as corpses. Remorse, scruples, conscience are things that my iconoclastic spirit destroyed [...] Yes, iconoclastic negation is most practical.

— Armando Diluvi

First of all, there is nothing inherently primitivist about a critique of civilization, particularly if that critique is anarchist and revolutionary. Such critiques have existed nearly as long as a self-aware anarchist movement has existed — and not always even connected to a critique of technology or progress (Dejacque felt that certain technological developments would allow human beings to more easily get beyond civilization; on the other hand, Enrico Arrigoni, alias Frank Brand, saw civilization and industrial technology as blocks hindering real human progress). The real question, in my opinion, is whether primitivism is any help at all to an anarchist and revolutionary critique of civilization.

The word primitivism can mean two rather different things. First of all, it can simply mean making use of what we know about “primitive” societies[1] to critique civilization. This form of primitivism appears relatively harmless. But is it? Leaving aside the obvious criticism of the dependence on those experts called anthropologists for information about “primitive” societies, there is another problem here. The actual societies that we call “primitive” were and, where they still exist, are living relationships between real, living, breathing human beings, individuals developing their interactions with the world around them. The capacity to conceive of them as a model for comparison already involves a reification of these lived relationships, transforming them into an abstract thing — the “primitive” — an idealized image of “primitiveness”. Thus, the use of this method of critiquing civilization dehumanizes and deindividualizes the real people who live or have lived these relationships. In addition, this sort of critique offers us no real tool for figuring out how to battle against civilization here and now. At most, the reified, abstract conception of the “primitive” becomes a model, a program for a possible future society.

This brings me to the second meaning of primitivism — the idea that “primitive” societies offer a model for future society. The adherents to this form of primitivism can themselves rightly be called primitivists, because, however much they may deny it, they are promoting a program and an ideology. In this form, I actually consider primitivism to be in conflict with anarchic thought and practice. The reason can be found in the Novatore quote above. Simply replace “communism” with “primitivism” and “collective revolution” with “industrial collapse” and everything should be pretty clear. As I see it, one of the most important differences between marxism and anarchism is that the latter is not essentially an eschatological vision of a future for which we wait, but a way of confronting the world here and now. Thus, revolution for the anarchist is also not something historical processes guarantees for the future, but something for us to live and create here and now. Primitivism is no more livable now than the marxist’s communism. It too is a program for the future, and one that depends on contingencies that are beyond our control to bring about. Thus, it has no more to do with anarchist practice than Marx’s eschatology.

I have already pointed out how the very concept of the “primitive” reifies the real lives and relationships of those given this label. This manifests among primitivists who seek to practice their ideology now in the way this practice ends up being defined. In a way far too reminiscent of marxism, “primitive” life gets reduced to economic necessity, to a set of skills — making fire with a bow drill, hunting with an atlatl, learning wild edible and medicinal plants, making a bow, making simple shelters, etc., etc. — to be learned in order to survive. This might then be spiced up a bit with some concept of nature spirituality learned from a book or borrowed from new age bullshit perhaps referring to a return to a “natural oneness”. But the latter is not considered necessary. The totality of the life of the people labeled “primitive” is ignored, because it is largely unknown and completely inaccessible to those who were born and raised in the industrial capitalist civilization that now dominates the world — and that includes all of us who have been involved in the development of an anarchist critique of civilization. But even if we only consider mere survival skills, the fact is that even in the United States and Canada, where real, fairly extensive (though quite damaged) wilderness exists, very few people could sustain themselves in this way. So those who learn these skills with the idea of actually living as “primitives” in their own lifetime are not thinking of the destruction of civilization (except possibly as an inevitable future circumstance for which they believe they will be prepared), but of escape from it. I won’t begrudge them this, but it has nothing to do with anarchy or a critique of civilization. On a practical level, it is much more like a more advanced form of “playing Indian” as most of us here in the US did as children, and, in reality, it is taken about that seriously. Nearly all of the people I know who have taken up the development of “primitive” skills in the name of “anarcho-primitivism” show how ready they are for such a life by the amount of time they spend on computers setting up websites, taking part in internet discussion boards, building blogs, etc., etc. Frequently, they come across to me as hyper-civilized kids playing role games in the woods, rather than as anarchists in the process of decivilizing.

An anarchist and revolutionary critique of civilization does not begin from any comparison to other societies or to any future ideal. It begins from my confrontation, from your confrontation, with the immediate reality of civilization in our lives here and now. It is the recognition that the totality of social relationships that we call civilization can only exist by stealing our lives from us and breaking them down into bits that the ruling order can use in its own reproduction. This is not a process accomplished once and for all in the distant past, but one that goes on perpetually in each moment. This is where the anarchist way of conceiving life comes in. In each moment, we need to try to determine how to grasp back the totality of our own life to use against the totality of civilization. Thus, as Armando Diluvi said, our anarchism is essentially destructive. As such it needs no models or programs including those of primitivism. As an old, dead, bearded classicist of anarchism said “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge”. And one that can be put into practice immediately. (Another dead anti-authoritarian revolutionary of a generation or two later called passionate destruction “a way to grasp joy immediately”).

Having said this, I am not against playfully imagining possible decivilized worlds. But for such imaginings to be truly playful and to have experimental potential, they cannot be models worked out from abstracted conceptions of either past or future societies. In fact, in my opinion, it is best to leave the concept of “society” itself behind, and rather think in terms of perpetually changing, interweaving relationships between unique, desiring individuals. That said, we can only play and experiment now, where our desire for the apparently “impossible” meets the reality that surrounds us. If civilization were to be dismantled in our lifetime, we would not confront a world of lush forests and plains and healthy deserts teeming with an abundance of wildlife. We would instead confront a world full of the detritus of civilization — abandoned buildings, tools, scrap, etc., etc.[2] Imaginations that are not chained either to realism or to a primitivist moral ideology could find many ways to use, explore and play with all of this — the possibilities are nearly infinite. More significantly, this is an immediate possibility, and one that can be explicitly connected with a destructive attack against civilization. And this immediacy is utterly essential, because I am living now, you are living now, not several hundred years from now, when an enforced program aimed toward a primitivist ideal might be able to create a world in which this ideal could be realized globally — if primitivists have their revolution now and enforce their program. Fortunately, no primitivist seems willing to aim for such authoritarian revolutionary measures, preferring to rely on some sort of quasi-mystical transformation to bring about their dream (perhaps like the vision of the Native American ghost dance religion, where the landscape built by the European invaders was supposed to be peeled away leaving a pristine, wild landscape full of abundant life).

For this reason, it might be a bit unfair to call the primitivist vision a program (though, since I have no use for bourgeois values, I don’t give a shit about being unfair...). Perhaps it is more like a longing. When I bring up some of these questions with primitivists I know, they often say that the primitivist vision reflects their “desires”. Well, I have a different concept of desire than they do. “Desires” based on abstract and reified images — in this case the image of the “primitive” — are those ghosts of desire[3] that drive commodity consumption. This manifests explicitly among some primitivists, not just in the consumption of books by the various theorists of primitivism, but in the money and/or labor-time spent to purchase so-called “primitive” skills at schools that specialize in this.[4] But this ghost of desire, this longing for an image that has no connection to reality, is not true desire, because the object of true desire is not an abstract image upon which one becomes focused — an image that one can purchase. It is discovered through activity and relationship within the world here and now. Desire, as I conceive it, is in fact the drive to act, to relate, to create. In this sense, its object only comes to exist in the fulfillment of desire, in its realization. This again points to the necessity of immediacy. And it is only in this sense that desire becomes the enemy of the civilization in which we live, the civilization whose existence is based on the attempt to reify all relationships and activities, to transform them into things that stand above us and define us, to identify, institutionalize and commodify them. Thus, desire, as a drive rather than a longing, acts immediately to attack all that prevents it from forcefully moving. It discovers its objects in the world around it, not as abstract thing, but as active relationships. This is why it has to attack the institutionalized relationships that freeze activity into routine, protocol, custom and habit — into things to be done to order. Consider this in terms of what such activities as squatting, expropriation, using one’s work-time for oneself, graffiti, etc., etc. could mean, and how they relate to more explicitly destructive activity.

Ultimately, if we imagine dismantling civilization, actively and consciously destroying it, not in order to institute a program or realize a specific vision, but in order to open and endlessly expand the possibilities for realizing ourselves and exploring our capacities and desires, then we can begin to do it as the way we live here and now against the existing order. If, instead of hoping for a paradise, we grasp life, joy and wonder now, we will be living a truly anarchic critique of civilization that has nothing to do with any image of the “primitive”, but rather with our immediate need to no longer be domesticated, with our need to be unique, not tamed, controlled, defined identities. Then, we will find ways to grasp all that we can make our own and to destroy all that seeks to conquer us.

Wolfi Landstreicher

[1] The use of the term “primitive” — which means “first” or “early” — for societies that have existed into modern times without developing civilization carries some questionable assumptions. How can societies that exist now be “first” or “early”? Did they just now appear? In a living world that is in constant flux, have they somehow remained static and unchanging? Can human development only happen one way — as the development of civilization? Besides, which of these societies is the genuine “primitive” one? They are certainly not all alike, or even all that similar. Homogeneity is a trait of civilization, not of these other social realities. So to put a single label on all of them is ridiculous... So I choose to put the word “primitive” in quotes.

[2] I am speaking here specifically of a conscious, revolutionary, anarchist dismantling of civilization, and not its collapse. A collapse would not be an immediate, once-and-for-all event. In the process of a collapse, we would not just encounter the detritus of civilization. We would also confront its still living human trash in the form of politicians turned warlords in order to maintain their power, possessing extremely dangerous weapons — the so-called “weapons of mass destruction” — that they would most likely use viciously. The effects of the process of collapse would be devastating beyond anything we have yet seen.

[3] The poet, William Blake talked about them in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

[4] These high-priced schools will let those who lack money attend in exchange for unpaid labor, a form of exploitation euphemistically referred to as “work exchange”, a term invented by the left-wing of new ageism — and so, inevitably, a load of bullshit designed to cover up the exploitative relationship.

13 Jan 04:33

Free Community College is Nothing to Celebrate, or What Piketty Means for Education

by Ann

Don't agree entirely with this, but it's an interesting critique.

Last week Obama announced a proposal to make community college free (the Federal government would pay 75% and each state would pick up the rest of the cost). Adapted from a program that is already in place in Tennessee, the President described the initiative using free-market language, arguing that such a plan would help “train our work force so that we can compete with anybody in the world.”

I’m on the record supporting free tuition at public colleges. It would be absurdly cheap to fully fund higher education, and Obama’s plan presents an opportunity to expand the discussion to include all 2- and 4-year institutions and to push for a system that provides a quality education to everyone. Beyond the unlikely prospect of success on that front, there is not much to celebrate in this proposal. Early indications are that in order to qualify for the program, community college students would have to major in so-called “high-demand” fields that can be proven to “lead to jobs,” a vocational orientation towards teaching and learning that deserves a serious critique from the left.

Unfortunately, there has been a lot of uncritical praise from journalists and Progressives. The Chronicle of Higher Education called the proposal “historic.” Richard D. Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation called it “genius” and said that such a program could make community colleges “engines of social mobility.” Mike Konzcal wrote in The Nation that the plan would turn two-year colleges into an “egalitarian machine.”

All of these positive feelings are seriously misplaced. The truth is that education can’t fix inequality. I feel compelled to say this because I value teaching and learning so much. The freedom to think, read, write, and discuss ideas with others is so crucial to life that I insist on being scrupulously honest about what education can do and what it can’t.

To understand the limits of education, Thomas Piketty’s work is a good place to start. Capital in the 21st Century was a surprise bestseller last year. It got everyone talking about inequality, even economists who (surprisingly to a layperson like myself) don’t like to talk about such things.

The crux of Piketty’s argument is that the 20th century was an aberration in world economic history. “The reduction of inequality that took place in most developed countries between 1910 and 1950,” he writes, “was above all a consequence of war and of policies adopted to cope with the shocks of war.” Apart from those global events which produced taxation and financial policies that resulted in broadly distributed prosperity (relatively speaking), the history of capitalism shows a clear trendline towards increasing inequality. That is the path that we’re almost certainly back on. In Piketty’s words, the “unprecedented situation” of the 20th century “is about to end.”

Assuming Piketty has a point (and judging from the critical reception of his book, many people think he does), then the next question is: What is the role of education in solving inequality?

Piketty’s answer is clear: education didn’t create 20th century prosperity by itself, and more college degrees can’t reduce inequality or provide mass social mobility.

We can best understand the implications of Piketty’s research for national educational policy by examining the roots of the proposed plan for free community college. The New York Times explained that the basis for the idea

can be found in a 2008 book by the [Harvard] economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz called ‘The Race Between Education and Technology’ … which tells the story of how the United States built the world’s most successful economy by building its most successful education system. At the heart of that system was the universal high school movement of the early 20th century, which turned the United States into the world’s most educated country. These educated high school graduates — white-collar and blue-collar alike — powered the prosperity of the 20th century.

Goldin and Katz argue that post-war prosperity (that mostly benefitted white men) was a product of universal education. But Piketty pretty much destroys this thesis in Capital. Their argument, he says, is largely based on the theory of marginal productivity, the “idea that a worker’s wage is always perfectly determined…by skill.” This model is simplistic because it doesn’t explain why the rich have gotten much richer, especially in the United States, since 1980. People in the top 9% of the income scale, Piketty explains,

 have progressed more rapidly than the average worker but not nearly at the same rate as ‘the 1 percent.’ Concretely, those making more than $500,000 a year have seen their remuneration literally explode (and those above $1 million a year have risen even more rapidly).

This extreme divergence at the top cannot be explained by the theory of marginal productivity. There is no evidence that those with the highest incomes are more productive than everyone else, including other very rich people just below them on the scale. Furthermore, there is no difference between the 9% and the 1% in terms of education or skill. And yet it is undeniable that the topmost group saw their income and wealth skyrocket in the last three decades.

Piketty’s analysis is devastating for the theory of skills- and technology-based economic change espoused by Goldin and Katz and many of the proponents of free (vocational) college courses. The idea that reducing inequality is a matter of people’s skills catching up to technology (a problem education can solve, at least in the short term) doesn’t explain the widening gap between the 9% and the 1%, just as it doesn’t explain the gap between the rich and poor or the hollowing out of the middle class. In a further rebuke to Goldin and Katz, Piketty argues that neoclassical economists treat the economy as a “mathematical abstraction” rather than what it actually is: a system of rewards and punishments that reflects the values and compromises of society and the power arrangements in place at any given time.

Considering the popularity of Obama’s free college proposal and Piketty’s critique of its theoretical basis, how should the left respond? It is beyond the scope of this post to fully answer that question. However, one way to think about the problem is by sticking with Piketty for a bit longer.

Education, Piketty writes, “has an intrinsic value.” In Capital, he makes several original connections between history, literature, and economics. The book itself is a demonstration of the rich interdisciplinarity of his method, which tells us a lot about the kind of education that prepares people to think creatively and rigorously about the world and the problems we face.

Piketty uses this method to counteract the lazy assumption that education acts as a kind of free market lever that can radically change how wealth is distributed and to whom. “Make no mistake,” he writes,

I am not denying the decisive importance of the investments in higher education … Policies to encourage broader access to universities are indispensable and crucial in the long run, in the United States and elsewhere. As desirable as such policies are, however, they seem to have had limited impact on the explosion of the topmost incomes observed in the United States since 1980.

Universal access to education is part of a social commitment to democracy, “indispensable” to civilization “in the long run.” But it can’t autonomously change very much about the distribution of wealth or the basic fact of who makes the rules in the present.

This is the context that Obama’s proposal for “free” community college leaves out. This gap is not surprising when we consider that the Lumina Foundation provided research funding to support the development of the proposal. Lumina is partially funded by the Gates Foundation. Another Gates-funded non-profit, Complete College America, promoted the idea at its annual conference. (One of CCA’s primary policy initiatives is to “encourage performance-based financing” of higher education.) It’s important that we ask why the same organizations that are pushing for the privatization of education are suddenly interested in free community college.

Furthermore, Obama and Secretary Duncan have spent 6 years supporting efforts to de-fund and privatize education at every level. Through programs like Race to the Top, they’ve sought to tie education funding to test scores and distribute public money to charter schools. We should be asking why they are now proposing a substantial investment in community colleges.

It seems that Progressives and the education privatization movement are working from the same flawed script. The New York Times is also a culprit: “Both history and economics,” David Leonhardt wrote in an article on the Obama proposal, “suggest that nothing may have a greater effect on the future of living standards than education policy.” This is simply not true. In capitalism the major factor involved in determining “living standards” is capital, not education. If we want to reduce inequality, we should distribute social resources like wealth and income more equally. Assuming that education can serve as a substitute for that essential work is, in Piketty’s words, “out of touch with reality.”








21 Dec 15:49

Caught Soju-Handed

by Black Out Korea


"This was taken in the other side of the street of Octagon Club, outside of the MiniStop, in Gangnam."

Photo: Lore R.

25 Jan 16:07

January, 25th


Let the right one in.

January, 25th

28 Jan 19:57

The Scarlet Letter “Z” for “Zen”

by Brad

Good perspective on teachers, and the requirement that we be our own shepherds in life.

Ryushin Sensei

Ryushin Sensei

I find it odd that I am sitting here at my kitchen table on a sunny Wednesday morning in Los Angeles working very hard to compose a response to something that, to me, hardly even merits a casual glance.

A guy who calls himself Ryushin Sensei has stepped down as abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery because he was having an extra-marital affair. The news is on the Lion’s Roar website if you want to read it. My initial response to this story, when people started forwarding it to me on Facebook and what-not was, fine, whatever. I don’t know this Ryushin Sensei fellow or his wife and I don’t know whoever he was having an affair with. I’m not part of their sangha. It’s really none of my business.

Then I started seeing this news get shared and commented on and shared again and commented on some more… That’s when I started trying to figure out if I could understand what the fuss was about.

We have a statement by someone who calls him or herself Shugen Sensei, who carries the title “head of the Mountains and Rivers Order” who says, “Ryushin’s infidelity – his betrayal of… his intimate partner, and thus his marriage and monastic vows – is a most serious breach for a person in a position of spiritual and ethical authority and leadership.”

And we have a statement by Ryushin Sensei in which he says, “Over the last six months, I formed an intimate relationship with someone outside our sangha, betraying Hojin [Ryushin Sensei's partner], not being honest and forthright with her, and breaking our spiritual union vows and ending our marriage… These actions are also a betrayal of your trust in me.”

Maybe I’m the weirdo here. Maybe I’m just wired differently from nearly everybody else. I will accept that as a possibility.

Yet I am not  certain I can understand what a “position of spiritual and ethical authority and leadership” actually is. Why is it we need to be lead by people in positions of authority when it comes to spirituality and ethics? Why is this stated in such a way that it appears to be beyond questioning?

I’ll see if I can explain a little of my own reaction. To pick just one item, even in spite of Ryushin’s comments, I don’t see any reason to be completely certain this wasn’t a case in which he and his partner had an open relationship which was discovered by the members of the community and found to be unacceptable to them. It would not be the first time someone has lied about the nature of their sexual relationships in order to save the myth of the heteronormative monogamy. For that reason among many others, I don’t feel any need to rush to conclusions.

I do see a few things going on here that I’m not sure too many others are seeing. For one thing, demanding Ryushin Sensei to step down from his position is a very Christian and very American response. It is impossible for me to imagine a married Japanese temple abbot being asked to step down from his post following the discovery of an extra-marital affair.

I am not saying the Japanese are right and the Americans are wrong. But to me, it’s sort of like when there was all that furor over Bill Clinton getting a blow job from his intern. Everyone in the United States was ripping their own hair out. I was in Japan when that was going on and my friends over there found the American reaction mostly weird and funny. Like that, this is also a culturally based reaction. I think it’s useful to understand that.

I get that it’s probably best for Mr. Ryushin to step down from his post. It’s probably even best for this Shugen person to demand he do that. However, this is not because of some Universal Truth out there somewhere in the vastness of space that says that someone who commits adultery cannot be trusted to teach people how to sit and stare at walls or to handle the administrative duties necessary to keep a Zen center running. Nor is it best because someone who has committed adultery can never counsel people about the difficulties that occur in their practice. That would be absurd.

It’s best because so many people are freaking the fuck out and it’s good to try to get people to stop freaking the fuck out — although clearly people are still freaking the fuck out anyway. Personally, if you want me to freak out over something, you’re gonna have to give me a more compelling reason than this.

If I had found out one of my teachers had had an extra-marital affair I can’t imagine it would bother me even a tenth as much as this news seems to be bothering people who didn’t even know anyone involved. It would be like finding out my guitar teacher had an affair. Fine. Now show me how to do that thing Jimi Hendrix does with the wah-wah pedal in the middle of Voodoo Child (Slight Return). It’s difficult for me to see the relevance.

I guess maybe the problem is ethics. A Zen teacher is supposed to be someone who has taken a vow to uphold a certain ethical code. This same set of vows is generally also taken by that teacher’s students as well. In fact, it is a common practice at Zen temples for everyone to gather once a month and publicly re-take those vows as a group — teachers and students all chant them in unison.

My best guess is that people are looking for someone to follow. They want to be lead. They want to be sheep following a shepherd, just like it says in the New Testament. A shepherd leadeth his sheep to lie down in green pastures. He scares away the wolves. He shows the sheep where the food and the water is and keeps them from going into dangerous places.

More importantly, the shepherd is a different kind of animal from the sheep. You wouldn’t want a fellow sheep to be your shepherd. And we certainly don’t want to have to be our own shepherds!

Perhaps my difficulty is that I have never seen things this way. I never saw my Zen teachers as shepherds whose duty it was to provide an example of moral perfection and to protect me from harm. I always saw them as fellow travelers on what was a difficult and dangerous journey. I figured they had just a little bit more understanding of the terrain than I did. But I never demanded that they be free of error or unable to make mistakes. Expecting anyone to be like that would be to believe in a kind of person that clearly does not exist. It would be stupid.

I get that a teacher is different from a student. But I tend to look at this from the literal meaning of that much beloved Japanese word sensei. The two Chinese characters used to spell that word are 先生. The character 先 means “previous” or “before.” The character 生 means “born” or “alive.” A sensei is not a different sort of creature from you, she is a creature like you who has had more experience at whatever it is you’re trying to learn from her.

If you want to get your undergarments in a knot about things like this story, there’s not much I can do to stop you. I just thought I’d take a moment to express that there may be a different way to respond.


Someone sent me a link to the article upon which the Lion’s Roar pieced was based. It is here. Interestingly, there’s a lot in the original article about Ryushin Sensei’s introduction of shamanic practice and philosophy into his Zen activities and all the confusion and objections that brought about. Lion’s Roar completely omitted this aspect as if it was entirely irrelevant. Fascinating.

*   *   *

Every Monday at 8pm I lead zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. All are welcome!

Every Saturday at 9:30 am I lead zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. All are welcome!

Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website,

*   *   *

This blog is supported by your kind donations. Every little bit helps. Thank you!




02 Feb 13:53

The Endurance of the Artist

by ateliersisk

My friend Amanda knows a thing or two about a thing or two, I reckon.

The best signpost I can offer to others attempting to survive as artists – or in general – is Hafiz’s We Have Not Come To Take Prisoners. Statistically, most artists give up for a range of understandable reasons, not least of all a culture that clings to damaging stereotypes and falsehoods about the artist and often does not support creative avenues as valid vocations. On an individual level, there is much the artist can do to keep his or her head above the water. Someone ought to write a survival manual.  In the meantime, fellow artists, surround yourselves with those who truly support and care for you, whether they understand your path or not.

03 Feb 08:00

Two Cakes

by Christopher Wright

On current events.
Viktor is the Boss's lawyer, and also a vampire.
The Boss is a transdimensional being bent on inflicting massive suffering on humanity, which is why he owns Ubersoft.

02 Feb 07:11

Internet of Things

by Christopher Wright
30 Jan 17:49

A Simple Way to Make Doughnut-Waffle Hybrid Krispy Kreme Waffles

by Rebecca Escamilla

There are times I really miss wheat. via A. Kachmar

Krispy Kreme Waffles

Amy Erickson of Oh Bite It came up with an incredibly simple way to unite doughnuts and waffles into a stack of a sweet, sweet excess in her recipe for Krisy Kreme waffles. The waffles are made by gently placing glazed doughnuts from popular doughnut chain Krispy Kreme in a standard waffle iron, removing them when warm and toasted, then topping with butter and syrup.

The stack of four pictured above packs a whopping 760 calories according to Krispy Kreme’s nutritional data–or a little over 800 calories when adding a pat of butter and a tablespoon of maple syrup. For more efficient doughnut-waffle hybrids, the syrup step can be skipped by swapping Krispy Kreme maple-glazed doughnuts for the plain-glazed variety.

Krispy Kreme Waffles

Krispy Kreme Waffles

Krispy Kreme Waffles

Krispy Kreme Waffles

images via Oh Bite It

via Foodiggety

02 Feb 05:01

conjure drink

by Ian

Ah, good ol' temporary liquor.

conjure drink

29 Jan 22:00

Jack Storms, the Crystal Machinist


Holy fuckballs.


For butterfingered woodworkers, dropping a project on the shop floor can be bad. But just imagine if your materials of choice were crystal and glass.


Since 2004, California-based artist Jack Storms has been producing these rare "optic sculptures." Created by precision-machining lead crystal and dichroic glass, a single piece can take up to 18 weeks to produce.


While Storms has advanced the art by inventing a lathe that allows him to turn glass like wood, he first learned the "cold-glass" process of joining lead crystal and dichroic glass from a glass artist in New Hampshire. "Working side by side with the artisan for over a year, Jack learned every component and facet of this incredibly challenging and rare art form and eventually was a strong enough sculptor to branch out on his own in 2004 and open StormWorks Studio," reads the bio on his website.

23 Jan 22:00

Material Matters: A Handy Wood Durability Chart


For Capt. Bunker.


Our entries on the types of wood used for boardwalks might have you wondering: What types of wood are more durable than others?

You may recall that in our wood series, we went over the Janka hardness ratings of wood. But when it comes to durability, Janka numbers only tell part of the tale; the hardness rating of a wood has to do with its ability to resist nicks and scratches, and gives you a heads-up on what types of blades you'll need to machine it.

Outdoor durability, on the other hand, has a slightly different scope. Even though wood used in building boardwalks or houses is almost always elevated off of wet soil on concrete pilings, there are other environmental factors the material has to deal with. For one thing, moisture—whether from rain or in the case of boardwalks, sea spray—and the fungi this can bring. On top of that you've got UV rays, temperature changes and pesky insects. Working in concert, this group of difficulties can impact how long a piece of wood can last and continue to serve its function.


While you can find tons of Janka breakdowns online, we couldn't find many charts that specifically linked wood types with durability. So here's one from Woodworkers UK, a Welsh outfit that makes wooden gates and garage doors—items that are meant to withstand the elements for as long as possible. (Graphically speaking, the layout of the chart is a bit confusing, particularly since we had to edit the image to fit our format, but at least all of the info's there.)

01 Feb 01:43

There Are Vast Gaps Between Scientists and the General Public on GMOs, Climate Change


In the world of news that isn't news.

By now, there's a general agreement that science has been good for humanity, and a shared concern about the future of science education. Still, scientists' and the public's views often differ on specific scientific issues, according to a new joint study from the Pew Research Center and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Researchers surveyed 3,748 AAAS member scientists and 2,002 adults living in the United States, asking their views and beliefs on a range of scientific topics.

"The public overall tends to see positive benefits of science" on society, says Pew associate director for research Cary Funk. People generally agreed with scientists that K-12 science education lagged behind other nations.

Scientists may view GMOs as safer, Leshner says, because they are more familiar with the process of creating them. Issues like evolution, meanwhile, may just be at odds with core values.

"Despite those commonalities, we are also seeing large differences between the public and scientists on a range of science topics," Funk says, particularly on issues such as genetically modified foods, climate change, evolution, and, to a lesser extent, measles vaccination. The overwhelming majority of AAAS scientists surveyed—88 percent—thought GMOs were generally safe, compared to just 37 percent of the general public. A similarly large gap existed on the question of climate change: 87 percent of scientists said climate change was largely driven by human activity; only half of the public blamed human activity. There were smaller, but still substantial, gaps on human evolution and whether the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine ought to be required.

Though the sorry state of K-12 science education is among the major reasons for the gaps, "the individual issues differ a bit in the reasons for the disparity," says AAAS chief executive officer Alan Leshner. Scientists may view GMOs as safer, he says, because they are more familiar with the process of creating them. Issues like evolution, meanwhile, may just be at odds with core values. "Sometimes it is simply a lack of understanding. Sometimes it is an economic or political issue. And sometimes it is a conflict" between science and core religious beliefs or values. A follow-up report due later this year will analyze how religious and political beliefs, among other things, may shape the public's views.

To counter this observed disparity, scientists will need to up their outreach. To do that, Leshner says, scientists must focus on smaller, more localized sessions with the public, instead of big town-hall-style meetings. "There is a science of science communication to the public," he says, that shows small-group interactions are more effective than massive, lecture-style approaches. 

Leshner acknowledges that scientists have been "arrogant" in the past about communicating with the public and says the discussion should focus on facts—and not with proving the intelligence of the scientist at hand. "I think the scientific community is hoping to be able to engage more fully with the public in a dialogue," Leshner adds, "as opposed to the traditional monologue."