Medicine and Sustainability

Two important stories that will make sense to all of you, but specifically to those “I wanna be a doctor” folks among us.  As you’ll learn in the California story, doctors get paid by the task — office visit, exam, surgery, etc.  This is not sustainable given where health care may be headed; it’s certainly not beneficial to the consumer.   Also as you’ll hear, given the cost of medical school and the loans MD’s have to pay back after graduation, specialization in the system drives doctors away from where they are indeed needed — primary care.

In California, Facing Down a Family Physician Shortage

In another story that shows us how wonderful we are, this is concerns Global Health.  In fact, this link will take you to several stories concerning Global Health — cholera perhaps spreading to the DR and Miami, organ trafficking, and a global food crisis.

As you ponder your last “mini” essays, think about some of these challenges.

Green School

Another TED talk. This is John Hardy who has created a Green School in Bali with his wife Cynthia three years ago. The schools is really green–in all senses. The school teaches both traditional “school” subjects as well as green subjects (like growing food). The school is committed to keeping about a fourth of it the student population Balinese as well as making sure the teachers are as well; with that said, from the images and clips in the video it seems as if the school is not that ethnically and racially diverse. This short talk is very interesting and I would encourage everyone to check it out. I have also included a link to their website.

John Hardy TED talk

Green School Website



The Harry Potter Alliance

This, according to the famous Henry Jenkins, media scholar at MIT, could be the way the next wave of activists gets nurtured.  Jenkins calls this “Avatar Activism.”

About 100,000 Harry Potter fans have been mobilized by HPA for causes including marriage equality, genocide prevention and literacy. They raised enough money to send five cargo planes to Haiti bearing medical supplies after the earthquake there, and they’ve bought thousands of books for libraries in Rwanda and the Mississippi Delta.

Harry Potter: Boy Wizard … And Real Life Activist? addresses what may be an evolving phenomenon around activism.   Reading this, I am reminded of Plato’s Republic and how he warned that the poet is a threat to the State. I’m wondering whether this new form of narrating could be a place for storytelling for a new generation?

Pakistan Floods- Connection to McKibben

I found a really disturbing and interesting article about the 2010 Pakistan floods. It reminded me a lot of what McKibben was talking about in Eaarth, especially in the first chapter. Notice how the article mentions the floods affects on infrastructure, politics, international relations (foreign aid and U.S’s regional strategy to combat the Taliban and Al Quaeda) and military issues, disease, food shortage, economics (severe inflation), and
political instability.

Imagine what will happen when the number of climate-related storms, floods, and droughts continues to increase around the world? What role will the U.S play?

Robert Moses and Majora Carter – Terrible Infrastructure and Environmental Justice

I had an interesting discussion with my architecture professor, James Butler, who introduced me to the source of New York’s horrible infrastructure in low income areas. Robert Moses, who is seen as a savior to residents of Westchester County, Rockland County and Long Island, pushed for the construction of major freeways throughout NYC. One of his projects, the Cross-Bronx Expressway, abruptly cut through the South Bronx, demolishing countless apartments and displacing over 600,000 working class people on a month’s notice. Since Moses was well-connected with the upper-class and was also backed up by Master’s from Oxford and a fancy PH.D from Columbia, he neglected the voice of the neighborhoods he destroyed and just let business dominate. My professor states “Moses was so politically powerful, that all he needed was to find the most talented architectures, and manipulate them to fullfil his projects.”

Another point about Moses is that his environmental projects, i.e Riverside Park, East River Park and Central Park were reserved for areas where mostly the upper-class lived. Although willing to destroy and increase car pollution in countless neighborhoods for highways, he never decided to place a pool or a park in Hunts Point or Bed-Stuy.


I also found an interesting interview with Majora Carter. Addressing the same tensions, Carter states the reasons why environmental concerns in low income areas are inevitable. Her point express how corps can still profit by engaging in projects that equalize environmental sustainability in all neighborhoods.

Check it out. It was intriguing to listen to, and they typed-up the interview if you just want to read through the ideas.

Edit 11/16/10 : Her interview basically reiterates the points in Cooper’s essay which we read today. Thanks Cooper for introducing us to Majora Carter’s ideas.

For those of you driving back home for Thanksgiving, think about the cities/towns you pass by. Is it evident that infrastructure has cut through low income areas near you? Please share. – link to  Carter interview.

Pic of the Cross Manhattan Expressway Moses designed.

“There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”  – Johann Wolfgang



Who Will Stand Up to the Superrich?

Frank Rich wrote an interesting article, today, in The New York Times, Who Will Stand Up to the Superrich?

Rich tells us that Americans don’t hate the rich; in some cases even admire the rich.  The wealthy who lost elections, he goes on, also provided jobs for people.  Rich, though, tells us that we should worry about another kind of rich American, the unseen:

The wealthy Americans we should worry about instead are the ones who implicitly won the election — those who take far more from America than they give back. They were not on the ballot, and most of them are not household names. Unlike Whitman and the other defeated self-financing candidates, they are all but certain to cash in on the Nov. 2 results. There’s no one in Washington in either party with the fortitude to try to stop them from grabbing anything that’s not nailed down.

This is serious because a democracy requires an informed citizenry; however, if this citizenry can’t see, we therefore aren’t ever sure where ideas and their motivations come from, thus trust suffers a serious blow.

As Rich suggests, “The bigger issue is whether the country can afford the systemic damage being done by the ever-growing income inequality between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else, whether poor, middle class or even rich.” Are we prepared to live in a country where the evidence — physical and otherwise — will uncover an abyss between the superrich and rich and the working class, and by working class I mean, as is evident in Rich’s column, people earning less than $200,000 and below? (Believe me, this isn’t a lot of money)

What happens in this world, this “new normal,” as we like to say, is that we lose our narrative, we can’t trust it; we also begin to sense that perhaps it’s never exited. Rich says, “That burden is inflicted not just on the debt but on the very idea of America — our Horatio Alger faith in social mobility over plutocracy, our belief that our brand of can-do capitalism brings about innovation and growth, and our fundamental sense of fairness. Incredibly, the top 1 percent of Americans now have tax rates a third lower than the same top percentile had in 1970.” The entire American concept is Romantic — it’s a romantic story that grows out of Enlightenment thinking.  The trick, actually, is to reach for the Romantic sense of authenticity that shuns aristocratic values for real experience but never quite really getting there; this keeps us going or moving towards a vision of what’s real, what’s truthful. In my mind, this is what Rich is pointing to — the erosion of this Romance with the real, the lived experience, the authentic self and the journey towards that self.

I read Rich’s editorial as an explanation of the law of unintended consequences — that is, as the rich, those unseen ones especially, continue to garner more of our resources to sustain their lives, we, the workers of America, begin to realize that we’re in fact working to sustain that small percentage of citizens that reap the rewards of our labors.  Thus, a percentage, an increasingly larger percentage of our value — our worth — is determined, according to Rich, by people we don’t know and people who are pulling at strings we don’t see.

How do we work through this? What do we have to do to better understand our roles in the world of labor (yet to come for you)?  How does Rich make you feel?  What is the relationship between Rich’s editorial and McKibben’s Eaarth?

Smart-Growth Policy Splits Environmentalists

In class and in our reading we’ve been learning about the divide between the environmental justice movement and the environmental movement. This article talks about another split in the environmental movement; between those who support investing in a “smart-growth policy” in urban areas and those who don’t. Developing environmentally friendly “green” building projects (parks, housing) seems like a good idea, but the Sierra Club has been experiencing a lot of opposition. Many club members are against the new focus on urban environment and “see efforts to promote density as colluding with developers.”

Do you think this represents an outdated vision of environmentalism? Is incorporating urban development into the environmental movement a good thing? (Do you agree with Arreguin, that the club should “look at the bigger picture of how (we) can be more sustainable”?)

And finally, is it possible to bring these movements together despite the apparent conflicting ideals and differences?