The most interesting and thought-provoking thing I’ve read all year is a CNN Money story on a small Macedonian town that played a big part on the 2016 American election. The Fake News Machine: Inside a Town Gearing up for 2020 takes readers inside the fake news economy of Veles, Macedonia. In 2016, Veles residents ran no fewer than 100 fake news websites aimed at conservative voters, most of them favoring Republican candidate Donald Trump. The websites pushed the false stories through Facebook accounts. People interviewed for the article claimed to make up to $2,500 per day in ad revenue from the fake news websites. There is even a small “educational” industry built around teaching other Veles residents how to earn money pushing fake news to conservative American voters. (According to one of the fake news profiteers, there is far less money in pushing false news stories to voters who prefer Democratic candidates.) Of particular interest to me was a strategy to get around recent actions that Facebook has taken to crack down on fake news and the fake profiles that spread them: buying real profiles from low-income children for roughly $2, then changing the names to sound more “American.” Anyone who’s interested in the role of foreign interference in the 2016 election should add this piece to their reading list.
I’m a couple weeks last on this, but the New Yorker had an excellent story on the Lummi Indian Nation’s response to the devastating Atlantic salmon pen spill on Puget Sound.
At Vox, Dave Roberts had an excellent piece on why he seldom writes about population. The Oxfam chart he cites explains a lot: the world’s wealthiest 10 percent consume about half of all the resources consumed globally.
CNN had a terrific collection of photos taken from around the country last Sunday when NFL teams (and, yes, even coaches and owners) protested en masse to Trump’s asinine remarks about the national anthem before games. But maybe the best response I saw belongs to R. Eric Thomas.
Think Progress draws our attention to the fact that criticisms of the NFL protests that we’re hearing today sound a lot like criticisms of civil rights protests in the 1960s. Namely, while extremists say that taking a knee is “ungrateful” and disrespectful and that the (mostly black) players should be fired, a door opens for “reasonable conservatives” to express dismay at these attacks, even to agree with the spirit of the rebellion, but also to suggest that this is the wrong way to protest and that it may be counterproductive. Think Progress flashes us back to 1964: a Gallup poll taken that year, shortly after the 1963 March on Washington, found that 74 percent of Americans believed that “mass demonstrations by Negroes” would “hurt the Negro’s cause for racial equality.” Another Gallup poll in October 1964 found that 73 percent of Americans believed that “Negroes should stop their demonstrating now that they have made their point.” A 1966 Harris poll of whites found that an extraordinary 85 percent believed “demonstrations by Negroes on civil rights” hurt “the advancement of Negro rights.” Wow. In this context it’s chilling that today, numerous high-profile, white Republicans are making a similar argument, that “the NFL protests are too incendiary and will backfire.” It’s insidious because these people sound reasonable and even sympathetic, like they’re on the right side of history, while they dismiss the power of the message and essentially send a signal to “pipe down.” The takeaway: ignore public opinion on this right now; let’s see how this polls 50 or so years on.
You have probably heard by now that British Columbia is planning on raising their carbon tax again, but you may not have heard that France is also significantly increasing its carbon tax next year, above and beyond the original clean energy goals set forth by the government in 2015. According to one independent analyst, “A carbon tax increase of this magnitude is a strong signal that the French government is serious about climate and prepared to take unpopular decisions.” Here’s hoping that other governments will follow suit.
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Also in clean energy news, the 14 states that comprise the US Climate Alliance recently announced that they are on track to meet their Paris Agreement emission reduction goals. According to Inside Climate News, these states and territories represent 36 percent of the US population, and together are equivalent to the world’s third largest economy. Straight from Washington’s own Governor Inslee: “We have exploded the myth that you can’t defeat climate change and grow your economy at the same time. It’s not a coincidence that our economies are doing well. It’s a consequence of what we’re doing to develop clean energy technology.”
Some good news for my fellow “snobby beer drinkers”—a recent meeting of craft brewers and scientists in Sweden kick-started the development of a list of “sustainability principals” for the global craft brewing industry to try and make the industry as a whole more environmentally friendly and social-justice conscious. Based on the article, this coalition is already showing signs of going beyond the usual standards for socially responsible companies these days, including “talking about structures of society and issues of social change.” It’s always exciting when two of your life’s passions intersect, but this is basically the collision of my life’s work, my formal education, and my main hobby. Cheers!
And finally, a little piece of hope that, should humanity ever pull its collective head out its own rear, we just might reap an even bigger ecological windfall than we have a right to expect.