EssaysFeatureScience

Climate Policies After Paris

Toward the end of 2015, leaders from around the world convened in Paris for the latest round of international climate talks. This marks the 21st annual Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. More than 40,000 people from over 150 countries attended the conference, representing governments, businesses, non-governmental organizations, and supranational institutions.

The Paris talks underscore the importance of addressing climate change before Earth’s ecosystems face irrevocable damage. Simply put, the use of carbon-based fuels that have been central to the economic development of the last couple hundred years creates a significant cost for the environment. Increasing dependence on fossil fuels has precipitated an unprecedented shift in a number of climate indicators. …

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EssaysFeatureLiberal Democracy in QuestionThe Left

Paris Spring? Social Media And The Spread Of European Solidarity Protests

June marks the fifth month of Nuit Debout (Standing Night) a movement that sprung from earlier protests by young people against the French government’s labor law reform. On March 31, 2016, an informal group of a dozen citizens from Fakir, a left-wing activist magazine, used the #mars40 Twitter hashtag to launch a public demonstration in and subsequent occupation of Place de la République in Paris. Since its debut, a crowd has gathered every evening on the square. Participants and activists come together to share their discontents, proposals, and ideals for a new society. Nuit Debout has now become an international movement, with gatherings in more than 266 cities in France and 130 other cities in Europe.

Focusing on this movement, our aim here is twofold: first, …

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EssaysFeatureLiberal Democracy in QuestionThe Left

The Left, the 2016 Election and the Cunning of History

Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the 2016 Democratic nomination for president has fallen short, edged out by Hillary Clinton’s formidable organization and her deep ties to the Party’s establishment. The Sanders campaign offered a genuine alternative, funded by record-breaking amounts of small donations from ordinary people, promising to implement an agenda of progressive social, economic, political and foreign policy reforms. Many disaffected young people in particular were brought into the Party and helped Sanders win his share of caucuses and primaries. Still he fell short. And now as the Democrats pivot to the general election to defeat the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump, the critical question is whether those young folks and others who were so energized to vote for Bernie as a progressive alternative are willing to show up on election day to vote for Hillary. …

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EssaysFeatureSex & GenderThe Left

FEMINISMS OF THE LEFT: Politics and Strategy

There is a long and confusing collection of names for those who are both leftists and feminists: Marxist feminist, socialist feminist, materialist feminist, black feminist, feminist socialist, anarcho-feminist… and so on. And straddling the line between socialist and liberal feminists, would be social welfare feminists. In the 1960s and 1970s in the heyday of the women’s liberation movement, when “feminism” was too tame a word, the mainstream feminists were social welfare feminists. They supported abortion rights of course, and equal pay for equal work, as do all feminists, but they also supported public childcare and welfare. Gloria Steinem and Ms. magazine are examples. But the movement declined, and at the same time that so many activists were moving into careers and families, American politics was moving right, into neo-liberalism — and it took mainstream feminism with it. …

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EssaysFeatureLiberal Democracy in Question

A Coup in Brazil, Despite Legal Formalities

The latest political events in Brazil have caused perplexity around the globe. The country once deemed to be not only an emerging global power, but also a positive example of democracy and stability in a region with a long history of political turmoil and authoritarianism, has been engulfed by a deep political crisis. The most immediate result of this crisis has been the ousting of the center-left Workers’ Party government this past March, in power for thirteen years, having won the last four elections in a row. The secondary effects of the crisis have mostly affected minorities and poor people: the interim government, in less than a month, has already dismantled important social policies on cash transfers and housing, and shut down ministries dedicated to agrarian reform, human rights, women’s and racial issues.

While these secondary effects may be seen as even more serious and urgent, as they signal a turn to a bizarre combination of neoliberal policies and conservative moralism,  …

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EssaysFeature

A Near-Miss in Austria? Maybe Not

Norbert Hofer must have been shocked when he heard the final result. The right-winger lost a presidential election he seemed to have had in the bag. In the end, just 31,026 votes separated him from rival Robert Van der Bellen of the Green Party. The postal votes won it for the Green. All the “rootless cosmopolitans” who mailed in their votes seemed to have decided the outcome.

Many Europeans got rather worked up about the idea that Hofer would win the election. Yes, the Austrian president’s job is largely ceremonial. Still: the Freedom Party candidate threatened to turn the role into something more substantial. He pledged to sack the current Austrian government for its policy on refugees. It was unclear what would happen after that.

That sounds scary. As does the fact that nearly half of Austrians have voted for a man from a party whose first leader, Anton Reithalter, was an SS brigade commander with a long career in the Reichstag. …

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CapitalismEssaysFeature

May Unemployment Report for Workers Over 55

Without the Choice to Retire, Unemployment Exacts High Psychological Costs on Older Workers

The Department of Labor’s monthly unemployment report released today shows  an unemployment rate of 3.4% for workers over the age of 55. The unemployment rate has decreased from 3.6% last month to 3.4%, a decrease of 0.2 percentage points.

In addition to imposing a financial cost on older workers, unemployment can also impose a psychological cost. The unemployed are not unemployed by choice. And being deprived of choice creates a feeling of helplessness. According to the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a nationally representative study of older Americans, unemployed respondents were more likely than both workers and retirees their same age to report a general feeling of helplessness. Among 55 to 64-year-olds, 40% of the unemployed agreed with the statement, …

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EssaysFeature

Restoring Security by (Re)discovering the Culture of Flexible Work

By the early 1990s, Jay Chiat had reached the pinnacle of the advertising world thanks to his firm’s iconic campaigns, especially the Absolut Vodka bottle print ads and Apple’s “Think Different” and “1984” spots. Flush with cash, Chiat commissioned the architect Frank Gehry to design “the office of the future.” Gehry produced the iconic (if mystifying) “Binoculars Building” in Venice, California. The structure’s whimsical exterior, however, clashed with the staid, cubicled ways of work going on inside. And so Chiat soon embarked on a mission to reorganize the ways employees worked at the Chiat/Day offices. His “virtual office,” a phrase Chiat popularized, would be as radical as the building’s shell. The quirky interiors would stimulate creativity and foster equality through open, non-hierarchical communal spaces sure to inspire imagination, collaboration, and flexibility — even playfulness. 

The firm chose associate media director Monika Miller to test-drive the office, which meant she was freed of her desk, chair, and personal office space. Each morning,  …

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EducationEssaysFeature

Are Professors Safe When Students Carry Guns?

In light of the tragic shooting this week of UCLA professor William S. Klug, apparently by a student over grades, Public Seminar is reprinting this essay by Simone Gubler. Last year, the Texas legislature voted to allow students to carry concealed handguns onto public campuses. Gubler discusses the impact of this decision, including its incorporation into campus life at the University of Texas, Austin where she is a Teaching Assistant.

The most striking architectural feature of the University of Texas at Austin is the tower that sits atop a hill at the center of campus. It is a twenty-seven story limestone monolith; a “toothpick” according to one detractor, more suited to the New Jersey cityscapes that inspired its architect, than to the landscaped grounds and rows of squat Italianate villas that radiate out from it. The tower is, in many respects, the focal point of university life…

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EssaysFeatureScience

The Green Growth Path to Climate Stabilization

The World Resources Council recently reported that between 2000 and 2014, 21 countries, including the U.S., Germany, the U.K., Spain and Sweden, all managed to “decouple” GDP growth from CO2 emissions — i.e. GDP in these countries expanded over this 14-year period while CO2 emissions fell.[1]   This is certainly a favorable development. But the crucial question remains: how favorable is it relative to what is necessary to put the global economy on a successful path to climate stabilization?

As of the most recent worldwide data (2012), global CO2 emissions are at around 32 billion tons per year.[2] The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provides conservative benchmarks as to what is required to stabilize the average global temperature at no more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) above the pre-industrial average. The IPCC presents these benchmarks in terms of ranges and probabilities, but a fair summary of their assessment is that global CO2 emissions need to fall by 40 percent within 20 years, to 20 billion tons per year, and by 80 percent as of 2050, to 7 billion tons.

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