FYS217 and The Public Sphere

Could You Spare Some Change for Sandy?

Being someone that lives in the Northeast, of course I was affected by Sandy, the hurricane that recently barreled through the country.  I have spent a lot of time looking at articles online and watching news reports on tv about the conditions across the nation in the aftermath of the storm.  I myself lost power for 8 or so hours and had a lot of broken tree limbs to pick up the next day, but did not suffer any real damage and my life continued on without much more than  hiccup.  There are others however, who have sustained much more damage either to their personal property or to public areas that affect them directly.  In addition many homes are still without power as electricity companies work to get everyone back online.  One theme that I have come across multiple times is the question of whether or not the Presidential Candidates would consider donating some of the campaign money to help the Sandy Relief fund.  Both candidates are finding that they have a surplus of money as election day draws nearer and are throwing it away at unnecessary expenses.  At this point, it has been argued, big television commercials and advertisements will not be influential.  Most people have either made up their mind, or are doing research to make up their mind, there’s not much more that the candidates can do to convince people in these last few days.  Obama and Romney have both made statements about the Sandy Relief, urging people who are capable to donate to organizations such as Red Cross.  Obama even visited Red Cross recently.  It seems to me that donating their surplus funds to a cause that would benefit many Americans who are in need by no fault of their own is a notion that almost anyone would support.  Not only would it be the moral thing to do, but it would show good character, one of the few things that could actually gain a candidate support in these last few days before the election rolls around.

SlutWalking to Promote Awareness

In Chicago there was a “SlutWalk” to promote awareness on sexual assault victims and to counter a stereotype that that victims of sexual assaults share blame in the attack.  The walk included scantily-clad men and women, although mostly women, who marched throughout the city of Chicago and gave speeches to explain their position.  Around the world similar SlutWalks were held with the same mission in mind.  A large part of the Walk was in response to a statement made by a Toronto police officer who said “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”.  I think it is ridiculous that women can be accused as having any responsibility in situations of sexual assault.  I strongly support their cause and think that their creative way of protesting the absurd way that our court systems work.  The amount of sexual assault cases where the offender is released scotch free is enormous.  It is because of this fact, as well, that women often feel hesitant to report sexual assaults.  When else would the court question the victim’s story?  If there had been a robbery, they wouldn’t ask, “are you sure you still wanted that tv?”  I am happy to see such support for such an important issue.

World Polio Day

Did you know that yesterday, Wednesday the 24th, was World Polio Day?  I didn’t, but just found out when I read an article from the Huffington Post.  The article includes information about how the disease is now 99% eradicated and how National Polio Day is calling for help to push that last 1% out of existence.  It is very encouraging to hear that such a terrible crippling disease is coming to its end, with scientists very confident in it being completely obsolete in the near future.  There are 11 fast facts about Polio to scroll through.  One that I found most impressive was that there were only 123 this year, that’s down from 350,000 in 1986.  In addition, there are currently only 3 countries around the world that still have polio in them, interestingly enough, India, the country that has been damaged most by the disease, has been polio free for a year now.  Since world Polio day last year the number of Polio cases has declined by 63%.  this shows just how important and significant this Global day of recognition can be.  Why don’t we make more global awareness days for other terrible diseases and strife?

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Leslie Thomas is a photographer that has taken it upon herself to try to make a difference in the world, with her own spin.  She uses her passion in photography to capture the attention of people and get them to join some sort of cause or make some sort of action.  She openly says that her “goal is to be the most emotionally manipulative person possible, then [she] wants to forge an emotional connection and get [people] to call or write and do something.”  I found this story while browsing through New York Times online and it immediately struck me as a great revolutionary idea.  I think it is really important for activists, such as Thomas, to get creative with their movements.  It reminds me of the girl that I posted about a month ago who started a lemonade stand to raise money to free slaves in third world countries.  The other thing that Thomas has going for her is that images are very powerful and can often grab a person’s attention must faster and with more force than words.  Her photos make people stop and think and care- hopefully enough to act. The article and sample pictures featured in it were enough for me to then google her work, she hooked my curiosity, which was her goal.

Information’s Tax on the Environment, Is It Worth It?

            Once the wheel was invented there was no turning back to carrying heavy loads on our backs, just as smart phones and the wireless internet have become addictions that can’t be satisfied by any lesser technology.  I recently came across an article in the New York Times that questioned the amount of energy that is being channeled into supporting the World’s dependence on technology.  Should we step back and stop demanding the rapid speed processing that is taxing the environment?  Or is it worth it to be investing so much energy into technology?

            The popular thought these days is that we are slowly killing our planet with unnecessary and greedy usage of energy.  People are always worried that we are going to reach a point where the Earth cannot keep up with our demand for its resources, but I disagree.  These thoughts are valid, however short sighted.  It is my opinion that the proper way to move forward is not to limit the amount of energy we use on technology today, but to redirect our technological usage into research in renewable and greener energy for tomorrow.  It is inevitable that if we continue along this path, it will lead us to learning more about how to protect our planet.

Let’s face it.  After being exposed to the internet and all it has to offer us, the human race just can’t go without it.  Thinking that cutting back on internet and server usage would be a valid solution to the energy dilemma does not make any sense.  After reading Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains I think it is impossible to think we could give up the luxuries that we have become used to in the technological world.  The connections in our brains have been rewired and molded to support high speed multitasking and screen processing.  Already our brains are changing and evolving into something new and losing the ability to function as they used to.  We have to follow our brain’s progression and continue on the path of new discoveries.  Humans are bold, curious creatures always looking to create the next best thing.

 In the past years there have been great discoveries and inventions that would not have been possible if it weren’t for information technology: stem cell therapy,space Exploration, the completion of the Human Genome Project, 3D technology, and social networking cites, just to name a few.  Once progress is achieved one cannot ignore the more efficient tools that have been created.  With all progress there is a cost.  Progress itself is change, and change brings with it both good and bad repercussions.  In this case the downfall of our advancements is the temporary harm it is doing to our environment.

The best approach to solve this would be to direct more of our technology usage into creating cleaner and more efficient devices and developments so that we can continue to make advancements without causing the environment too much harm.  Steps in this direction have already been made.  Newer lap tops and tablets that are more energy efficient are growing in sales and private companies that used to have warehouses of computer servers are joining the cloud and outsourcing.  Investments into researching green alternatives and making current systems more efficient will create jobs and promote growth in the economy.  Companies are currently wasting 90% of the electricity they use in order to meet the demanding need for high speed data (Koomey), but instead of attempting to short suit ourselves and limit the inevitable expansion, we should, for the time being, accept that we have to learn to play catch-up with ourselves.  I don’t believe that remaining on this course will lead to long term destruction of the environment; in fact, I think it will lead to the opposite.  When we reach the point where the emissions caused by our technological usage is at a suitable level compared to the amount of internet surfing and data processes that is being done, we will have made huge leaps in the development of clean energy that will undoubtedly have extensive benefits outside the internet sphere.  I am all for helping the environment, but in this case I think the big picture needs to be looked at.  Using a lot of energy now will only lead to learning how to better control it in the future.

 

Koomey, . “Benefits Outweigh the Concerns .” New York Times 24 09 2012, n. pag. Web. 24

Sep. 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/09/23/informations-

environmental-cost/the-benefits-of-information-technology-outweigh-the-costs>.

Spike in Anti-American Protests

Today I spent some time looking at a bunch of articles and videos that have been popping up about the recent outbursts, particularly in the Middle-East, of anti-American protests and demonstrations.  Many were brought on by an American made youtube video that mocks Mohammed called “Innocence of Muslims”.  On September 11th of this year many activists used this video as the compelling factor to attack US Embassies around the world, killing several U.S. officials and an Ambassador.  The whole outbreak has kick started an anti American attitude in several other countries.  Many articles I looked at mentioned U.S. Flag burning riots and demonstrations and Al Qaeda has made a statement addressing the matter, saying “We encourage all Muslims to continue to demonstrate and escalate their protests … and to kill their (American) ambassadors and representatives or to expel them to cleanse our land from their wickedness” and calling the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens a “gift”.  

The biggest part of this whole situation that I find myself reacting to is that Google has shut down or been made to shut down its youtube site in many countries due to the offensive videos that it has on it.  Google has refused to remove the videos as they are protected in America as freedom of speech, which, I strongly support.  But many people have died in response to on 12 minute video made by a Californian extremist.  Is that really necessary?  I understand and support their right to have and express their opinion, but I feel like there should be some other way to express it in a way that wouldn’t lead to repercussions such as a suicide attack killing 12 people in Afghanistan. I don’t really have any ideas on a solution to this problem, I am just frustrated by the general hatred of other people that exists in this world.

A Little Goes a Long Way

Today I stumbled across an article about an 8-year-old girl in California who is creating a stir with her new lemonade stand business, Make A Stand Lemonade.  After seeing photographs of current slaves around the world, the young girl, Vivie, and her family decided to take a stand by literally creating a stand – a lemonade stand.  In two  she has raised $50,000 just from selling lemonade and her goal is to reach $150,000.  The the money is being donated to Not For Sale, a campaign to end slavery around the world.  I have no doubt that Vivie will go above and beyond her goal of raising $150,000 because she has everything going for her.  Her story is one that the media loves to pick up.  A young girl making a difference by selling lemonade, a classic American past time.  Her motion got kick started after a New York Times reporter tweeted out her story.  Since then her story has been covered throughout the media, often with links to contribute and like her project on Facebook, since when do 8 year olds have a Facebook let alone a page with supporters across the country?  She also has #MakeAStand Lemonade trending all over twitter.  Her whole operation got blown up when she went viral and made it onto the social media scene.


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