There is no question that the most significant trend affecting brick-and-mortar stores is the relentless march of Amazon and other online retail companies. But the recent meltdown for retail brands is equally about the legacy of the Great Recession, which punished logo-driven brands, put a premium on experiences (particularly those that translate into social media moments), and unleashed a surprising golden age for restaurants.
As the entire Internet went ballistic over Bret Stephens’ New York Times column on climate science uncertainty, I spent some time with a piece he linked to: Andy Revkin’s biographical account of his journey into environmental reporting. Revkin has come in for a lot of abuse from some quarters—unjustly in my opinion—and it is illuminating to read his own portrayal of developing a passion for both environmental protection and honorable journalism.
At Seattle Weekly, Marxist and first generation Pakistani-American Asad Haider takes aim at identity politics, explaining why he believes it is fracturing the left.
I recently finished two books that were both flawed and, by turns, extraordinary.
Heart of the Monster reads like a duet by two great tenors of environmental writing, David James Duncan and Rick Bass. They make a specific argument about the imperative of their communities to resist fossil fuels and the delivery of mining equipment through the northern Rockies to the tar sands. It is also something of a cri de coeur for the sacredness of the Clearwater River, Lolo Pass, and the great Nez Perce heartland of Cascadia.
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson brought me back to my graduate philosophy program, and to the room where I assisted in the birth of my child, and to places I don’t pretend to understand. I’m a cis-gendered straight white guy and I think I underlined about a quarter of the book. I can’t imagine how it might land for others.
The Oatmeal does it again with a comic explainer of the backfire effect. We are biologically wired to reject information that threatens our core beliefs. When new information threatens to dismantle our worldview, we go into battle mode and build up extra defenses to keep the worldview—our very identities—intact. Yep. If you have a brain, it happens to you, it happens to me, not just to people we don’t agree with.
And for the more science-y version of the same basic concept, here’s Slate on why explaining science won’t fix information illiteracy:
The takeaway is clear: Increasing science literacy alone won’t change minds. In fact, well-meaning attempts by scientists to inform the public might even backfire. Presenting facts that conflict with an individual’s worldview, it turns out, can cause people to dig in further. (H/T KE)
Two new additions to the silver linings category:
First, a growing number of small business owners and entrepreneurs are capitalizing on the #ResistanceEconomy, using progressive messages and political anger as fuel for their creative endeavors. The merchandise includes everything from baby onesies to a scented candle that smells of meat and suntan lotion and comes with an orange wig-lid, and many proceeds go to support nonprofits like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.
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And cannabis activists in California have an ambitious plan to launch a new public bank—one that can serve the billion dollar industry while also enabling communities to get out from under Wall Street’s thumb. Sounds like a win-win.
The Olympian ran an article from a wire service addressing the question: are pesticides safe to use on fruit and vegetables? The author leaves it to readers to make their own decisions. But in my opinion, he provides a balanced account of the controversy around Chlorpyrifos. I also am old enough to remember his other story, about Alar (chemical name Daminozide) in 1989. The author describes how consumers “voted with their forks,” to protect themselves and their children from apples, apple juice, and other products treated with Alar. Major grocery stores responded by demanding Alar-free apples and apple products from their suppliers. By the time EPA was ready to cancel the chemical, Uniroyal, the sole Alar manufacturer, voluntarily halted all sales of the chemical for use in the United States.
In “Pesticide maker tries to kill risk study,” an Associated Press exclusive, the news agency released letters that lawyers for three pesticide companies submitted to two Cabinet departments and the EPA, asking the Trump administration to disregard the findings of federal agency scientists that organophosphate pesticides are harmful to about 1,800 threatened or endangered species. Those companies include Dow Chemical, which got the headline because it manufactures Chlorpyrifos. The other two companies respectively sell Malathion and Diazinon.
The Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) is fighting back by asking citizens to sign a petition telling EPA to Protect People & Endangered Species [including salmon] from Pesticides. NCAP is collecting signatures until May 15, and those interested can get details and add their signatures at this embedded link to the petition.
John Abbotts is a former Sightline research consultant who occasionally submits material for Weekend Reading and other posts.