Want to Help People Escape Crazy Conspiracies? Read This

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2020 witnessed the rise of an absolutely bonkers conspiracy theory based around some anonymous internet poster. You may know somebody who believes the illogical thoughts that led to the insurrection in Washington last week and are concerned for their mental well being. If you know somebody deep into illogical and self-defeating conspiracies please check out this article from last November in the Guardian (to be clear, some conspiracies are real).

Like with most problems facing the world right now we can solve it by better educating people and applying critical thinking skills.

Finally, some conspiracy theorists greatly exaggerate debates among experts themselves. Not all epidemiologists will agree on the best measures to reduce the spread of the virus, but this disagreement shouldn’t be used to justify the idea that the whole pandemic has been engineered by the government for some nefarious end.

The tobacco industry used these tactics to great effect in the 1970s, with adverts that quoted fake experts and rogue scientists who questioned the harms of smoking.

“It’s a really persuasive form of misinformation,” says Prof John Cook, an expert in “science denial” at George Mason University. Fortunately, he has found that educating people about the history of this common deceptive tactic can make people more sceptical of other fake experts at a later point.

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How Satellite Alerts Save Forests

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Information is key to success, and that’s especially true when it comes to fighting deforestation. Organizations and governments trying to protect our forests need to know where the illegal activity is happening, when, and who the perpetrators are. A team of researchers wondered if providing alerts from satellites could help organizations preventing deforestations. The short answer is yes.

Those findings come from new research into the effect of GLAD, the Global Land Analysis and Discovery system, available on the free and interactive interface Global Forest Watch. Launched in 2016, GLAD provides frequent, high-resolution alerts when it detects a drop in forest cover. Governments and others interested in halting deforestation can subscribe to the alerts on Global Forest Watch and then intervene to limit forest loss.

Moffette and her co-authors set out to understand whether these kinds of automated alerts could achieve their goal of reducing forest loss, which has global climate implications. Land-use changes like deforestation account for 6 percent to 17 percent of global carbon emissions. And avoiding deforestation is several times more effective at reducing carbon emissions than regrowing forests.

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Cambridge Economist: Our Economic Recovery Must be Green

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Reagan-era economic thinking focuses on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the bellwether for how well society is doing. It’s a narrow view of the world which ignores everything except the movement of capital, yet many economists and politicians are stuck in this outdated way of thinking. In this context, and with the influential power economists have, it’s noteworthy that Cambridge economist is openly advocating to not use GDP and focus instead on making a sustainable society. We need to plan ahead for the future and build a better tomorrow instead of punishing future generations with an unsustainable economic system for short term wealth now.

“A focus on GDP without proper regard for environmental degradation or inequality has been a disaster for global ecosystems and undermined social cohesion,” said Prof Diane Coyle, who leads “Beyond GDP’ research at Cambridge’s Bennett Institute for Public Policy and is a key speaker at Tuesday’s public event.

“Statistics are the lens through which we see the world, but they have made nature invisible to policymakers. Twenty-first century progress cannot be measured using 20th-century statistics,” she said.

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Why Just Food Matters

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Everyone needs to eat, yet even in our democracy there are people with low access to food and the food they can get is low quality. This shouldn’t be the case, so let’s do something about it! Colin Dring created the Just Food website to help educators explain and explore our food systems in Canada. The National Observor intervied Dring to find out why he created the site.

The Just Food website says the resource “brings diverse standpoints relevant to food discourses to the table.” Can you give me an example of one of those perspectives? 

Much of contemporary food system perspectives come from people in positions of privilege. Take, for example, a food bank. When we think of the food bank, we’re not necessarily thinking that people who use the food bank should have a say in the decisions or the kinds of services offered or the kinds of food provided. The dominant discourse is that people experiencing poverty should just be grateful and thankful. I think this reproduces a system that treats people like objects. So, when we talk about including diverse perspectives, we’re really talking about elevating and drawing attention to the impacts of privilege in maintaining the world as it is.

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Now is the Time to Increase Accessibility in the Arts

Making an art gallery accessible is more than providing a ramp for people to enter, an accessible art gallery ought to include accessible art. The bare minimum a gallery or performance space can do is follow the guidelines around accessible buildings (ramps, floor space, etc.). Over at Art News, Sara Reisman, executive and artistic director of the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation in New York, argues that 2021 should be a turning point for the art world to make the entire field accessible so more people can create and appreciate art.

During our talk, Papalia presented examples of sensory experiences that diverge from the art world’s focus on visual art and its bias toward sighted audience members so frequently referred to as “viewers.” In the past few years, he has become known for participatory performances that he describes as “nonvisual walks,” using his cane (and sometimes a megaphone or even, in the case of a special event on the High Line in New York, a marching band) to lead groups in daisy-chain-like formations that enact the kinds of interdependencies articulated in the principles of “Open Access.” Like Papalia’s approach to conversations around accessibility in general, instructions for the walks avoid medicalizing terminology and frame the experience as a function of embodiment instead.

I have participated in three such walks, and each has recalibrated my relationship to the environment and people around me. In a rural setting, I felt rocks and dips in the dirt road under my feet. In an urban landscape, I felt pavement, curbs, and the presence of vehicles in constant motion. Each time, I have experienced the world with a heightened sense of perception—and my understanding of the sensorium has been further transformed.

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