consciousvoices's blog

All Disquieted on the Western Front

Every year that I am able I pay a visit to Big Sur, California, one of my favorite places since I was very small. I love the scenic drive up the rugged coast on the winding WPA-era highway One through the land where the mountains meet the sea. You've seen it in car commercials, and the famous chase scene from North by Northwest, and the picture in your mind, no doubt, is of the azure Pacific waters glistening in the sun as waves lap the rocky coast line below sloping Emerald meadows. As a kid I took all of this for granted, but I gradually came to realize that the ribbon of highway isn't the only feature there that is foreign to the natural landscape. The fact is that those brilliant swaths of Green shouldn't be there – and they wouldn't be were it not for the small herds of cows that regularly scour the fenced-in private ranches, allowing grasses to flourish where once there were coastal prairies and thickets of woods. The fact is that the Big Sur we have all seen in pictures and post cards for as long as we can remember is, in reality, a severely altered landscape, some of whose most iconic features are the result of large scale human-caused damage. In that sense, Big Sur, as we know it, is a perfect metaphor for the much larger environmental crisis facing the American prairies of the South and MidWest , and the way we have grown to accept the destructive agricultural practice known as “ranching” as an immutable facet of the American identity.

Opening monologue on Ferguson

Welcome to Conscious Voices, a weekly program dedicated to bringing you alternative points of view and to challenging popular assumptions in order to help you be better informed and civically engaged. I'm Evan Davis, your host for this edition. Well, if we are to believe the media reports, "calm" has returned to Ferguson, Missouri after nearly a week of nightly protests since the verdict of the grand jury investigation of the killing of Michael Brown, who was Black by police officer Darren Wilson, who is White. In an earlier edition of this program I criticized the media for reporting on clashes between demonstrators and police in Ferguson by saying that "violence erupted at demonstrations", or that "demonstrations turned violent", when as countless videos and witness accounts revealed, it was nearly always the police who initiated the violence, in the form of tear gas and rubber bullets which were used to disperse crowds of erstwhile peaceful protesters. Moreover, the violence in this particular chain of events started with the shooting of Michael Brown. But even that analysis fails to take in to account the much longer history - one that includes a decades-long legacy of institutionalized racism in the state of Missouri and the U.S, in general, some of the hallmarks of which are increasing racial segregation in places like Ferguson and East Cleveland, the sight of another questionable police killing of an un-armed, or nearly un-armed Black youth by white officers in just the last week. Ferguson has gone from being around 40% Black just a couple of decades ago to being over 70% Black today, which its over-all population hasn't changed. Its police force, however, remains over 90% white, with most of those officers residing in other Saint Louis suburbs. Unemployment in Black communities remains much higher than the reported national average, yet expenses are high as ever.

Election post mortem

In my assessment, the transfer of control of the Senate probably doesn't portend drastic changes - at least not immediately. The Republicans probably won't try to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, though a few promised their supporters they would. If they try, Obama will veto it, and they still won't have enough votes to override the veto. Likewise, they won't be able to push through major policy changes in the short term - but that's not really the danger here. The two remaining years of Obama's presidency will be measured not so much in terms of terrible policies he'll have prevented, but, rather, in terms of badly needed policies that now will have virtually no chance of passing. With Republicans in control, we will never see progress on climate change or carbon emissions. There will be no Federal jobs bill. or sensible gun law reform. nor restoration of funding for essential programs like education , or subsidies for renewable energy.

The fight against Ohio's Senate Bill 5 Continues

Bob Fitrakis interviews Bruce Bostick, labor organizer, on the battle against SB5

“We’ve turned in 1.3 million signatures which was a record number-400,000 more than had ever been turned in before, but right now we got to win this thing…on a ballot,” said Bostick.

Has Ohio or the US seen a labor battle this big in recent history ?
Fight Back

Plans for 2010 from one WCRS reporter--Tom Over

So as to manage my time and energy in 2010, I think I would be wise to focus on three main projects. Please let me know what you think. My guess is that these things will be better if we put our minds together.

(I)   Serial previews for the US Social Forum and in-person reporting on the event, and the people and issues involved;

(II)  Serial previews and reporting on the WCRS community forums, along with some reporting based on following what participants in the forums communicate about what issues matter to them;

and (III) Serial reporting on the problems of Ohio's factory farming and what can be done about it. I intend to frame this reporting within the context of Peak Oil, Climate Change, over-population and other broad issues.

I dislike how a lot of environmental reporting homes in on a specific environmental problem such as mountain top removal mining, without framing the issue within a broader ecological and socio-political context. 

Obviously this also happens with reporting that doesn't present itself as having an environmentalist perspective. For example, WOSU, Columbus Alive, the Other Paper, or 614 Magazine have reported on bicycle commuting and local food.

But, to my knowledge, they have done so without much, if any, mention of Peak Oil, Climate Change, or even concerns about air or water quality for that matter. 

So, I intend to use Peak Oil, Climate Change, and other broad ecological and political issues as a reference point in every peice of reporting I create.

Localism isn't about focusing on,  for example, the buses, bike lanes, farmers' markets, co-ops, and community gardens of Columbus as if no world beyond our city existed. Rather, as far as I am concerned, localism is about finding local ways to actually do something about the various global problems we become aware of.

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