Daily Inspiration: Reforestation of the Amazon

The Amazon is the worlds largest rainforest. It spans over 2 million miles and provides a home for millions of people and various species of wildlife. Since the 1970’s the deforestation of the Amazon has spiraled out of control.

Humans have cleared significant areas of the forest to make room for crops and livestock, which in turn has serious consequences on the balance of our ecosystem.

A new initiative in Brazil is going to bring back 73 million trees to the Amazon. Reforestation is important to the survival of humans and the planet itself.

Learning the Lobby

Corporations have been working since the 1950’s to figure out how to make the government work for them. If therein lies a problem, money will solve it. Lobbyists work tirelessly to keep their clients bottom line parallel to the dealings in Washington.

The American government allows corporations to come in and heavily court our nations representatives with campaign contributions and kickbacks in exchange for more favorable legislation. Corporations have become so effective- that they have created entire agendas in favor of their causes. An article by The Atlantic outlines the metrics:

Corporations now spend about $2.6 billion a year on reported lobbying expenditures – more than the $2 billion we spend to fund the House ($1.18 billion) and Senate ($860 million).

Today the biggest companies have upwards of 100 lobbyists representing them, allowing them to be everywhere, all the time. For every dollar spent on lobbying by labor unions and public- interest groups together, large corporations and their associations now spend $34. Of the 100 organizations that spend the most on lobbying, 95 consistently represent business.

Some of the most influential contributors in history came from tobacco, sugar, gun and the privatized prison system. If you think about the campaigns in favor of these specific industries, what are some pitfalls? Millions have suffered from tobacco related illness, obesity or sugar/food related illnesses, have been the victim of gun violence, and private prisons are overflowing with people for petty crimes.

Lobbyist ensure there place by having a reliable presence; even if the results of their labor have a negative impact on society. Corporations use their clout to influence public opinion and the propaganda that follows is calculated. Long lasting legislation is dependent on persuading the public to believe that what is proposed is legitimate and most of all resourceful.

lobbying table
Money Spent by Top Industries Lobbying from 1998-2017 via Center For Responsive Politics 

Democracy gets lost when civil liberties are for sale to a willing constituent. When effective propaganda is used to favor an entity that has grown bigger than its intended purpose, society is at a loss. Pharmaceutical, insurance,  defense and oil companies have seen tremendous and not entirely ethical profits by accommodating  government officials.

Are we convinced to vote against our own interests? The answer is all around us: on the news, advertisements, and bills. Voting power comes with knowledge, not just what is circulating on televisions and social media. It is imperative to know who is in the pockets of candidates to protect your livelihood. Go beyond party lines and become informed- corporations are betting on it.

Daily Inspiration: Learn Beyond Your Prejudice

Nas Daily is a world traveler that posts videos on Facebook about the people he meets and interesting concepts about those places. His videos are informative and can be fairly moving.

In today’s video he had an interaction with someone who holds a prejudice against people from his home country. He tried to change the view of the people that he is conversing with.

Nas reminds us that no matter what we see, are taught, or experience it is unwise to generalize entire groups of people. You exclude yourself from amazing interactions and relationships when you don’t learn beyond your prejudice.

Convenience To Contraceptives On Campus

It is not a secret that young adults attending college are sexually active. Even though the media has evolved to be extremely sex ‘forward’, the topic of sex is still taboo.

Women and men may still face scrutiny and some colleges are looking to ease that burden; with contraceptive vending machines. Since 2012, Shippensburg University, University of California, Santa Barbara and University of California, Davis have installed ‘wellness’ machines on campus.

Health education programs in high schools vary widely across America. They employ conservative or progressive curricula to inform students about sex. By the time these students get to college, their experiences are different.

Wellness machines provide condoms, Plan B, and pregnancy tests for the convenience of all students. Ultimately, making it a great resource for reserved and liberal students who are engaging in sexual activity to stay safe without judgement.

Earlier this month, Stanford University became the latest school to install these vending machines.  According to an article by the New York Times, more schools are looking to provide these services.

Parteek Singh, a recent graduate who urged U.C. Davis to install the machine, said he had heard from people at more than 30 schools who are interested in learning how to do the same thing on their campuses.

“This will be big,” Mr. Singh said. “It’s just the beginning.”

This appears to be a new trend for schools that are looking to turn this taboo topic into new and improved health services for their students.

Detroit Aims to Break Poverty Cycle

Housing is a significant roadblock for those who cannot create generational wealth. Finding adequate solutions are often met with discussion and debate; making poverty a hot button issue in the United States.  Social programs have been centered around lifting the unfortunate out of desolate situations and making life more affordable. Long term efficacy of these efforts remains to be seen.

In 2017, there is not a state in this country where a person working forty hours on minimum wage can afford a two bedroom apartment. CNBC reported on this issue, highlighting these grim prospects.

That’s according to new research by the National Low Income Housing Coalition covered by The Washington Post. Across the country, it reports, even full-time workers would have to make about or more than twice as much to afford a typical home.

In states such as Alaska, Washington, Colorado, Florida, Virginia, Illinois and most of the Northeast, workers would have to make over $20 an hour. Workers in California, D.C. and Hawaii are the hardest hit by the price of housing: They need to earn a whopping $30, $33 or $35 an hour, respectively, to afford a two-bedroom.

Cass Community Social Services in Detroit, Michigan has spearheaded a revitalizing program for its idling communities. Tiny Homes has been launched to fight poverty by using just that- tiny homes. Homes range from 250-400 square feet and come fully furnished. Located in central Detroit, new constructions will be available for purchase after seven years of renting.

Current services have a limit for what they can help people achieve. Unfortunate situations involve a person getting just far enough ahead to price out of a program, but are still unable to afford basic needs for their families. A program like this should- in theory- lift generations above the poverty line. In addition to providing these tenants with an affordable home; tenants have to attend a mandatory monthly financial literacy class. Classes teach tenants about growing income and home ownership.

Opening doors for the working class that would otherwise remain closed is the highlight for this Detroit community. The advantages that come along with home ownership can change the outlook for current and upcoming generations. The education that will be provided to sustain this lifestyle is a step that is overlooked in other social programs. While longitudinal data on Tiny Homes will provide a better insight to its successes and failures, right now it gives needy families a new lease on life.



Does Winning The Rat Race Change You?

Most people have heard the expression ‘that money changes people’. As children, we are socialized by the world around us. The core of who someone, is largely determined by what has been relayed through childhood experiences. Socialization takes places in a myriad of ways but mostly through, race and gender. What about class?

Class differentiation is avoided in conversations like the plague. Everyone may not like to talk about money, but it is still present. Attaining and maintaining money is the goal of every person that lives in the first world. This does not take long to see once we are re-configured to the world as adults.

Without it, one of two things may happen: 1) quality of life may be severely impaired or 2) survival is doomed. This is the point where someone who doesn’t buy the hype would say, “money isn’t everything” or ” money can’t buy happiness” but in reality it is everything.

The golden ticket to exist is reliant on paper and coins. Under those rules society ends up back in the rat pack, following the norm to make the money to buy the house, feed families and buy the clothes. In that respect, people are equals until comparisons begin between the sizes of these homes, the quality of the food and the labels that come attached to those flattering clothes. Then, something changes.

In an article featured in New York Magazine, the author developed a piece based on research that suggested, individuals with higher income have less empathy toward others. The psychologists used in this article presented several different experiments correlating wealth or perceived wealth with empathy by citing emotional cues or actions to determine overall empathy toward others. What makes this article interesting is that the changes in attitudes among those who just had ‘perceived’ wealth or status just for the study.

In experiments she published in the journal Science in 2006, Vohs “primed” her subjects to think about money, which is to say she planted the idea of money in their minds without their knowledge before observing their social interactions compared with a control group. In one case, she asked participants to wait alone in a room at a big table, which happened to be strewn with gold, green, and burnt-orange Monopoly bills. After ten minutes, she’d get the subject, take him to a different room, and ask him to fill out piles of questionnaires seeking detailed psychological ­information. The point was to muddle the subject’s mind: He knew he was ­participating in an experiment but had no idea what he was being tested for.

Vohs got her result only after the ­subject believed the session was over. Heading for the door, he would bump into a person whose arms were piled ­precariously high with books and office supplies. That person (who worked for Vohs) would drop 27 tiny yellow pencils, like those you get at a mini-golf course. Every subject in the study bent down to pick up the mess. But the money-primed subjects picked up 15 percent fewer pencils than the control group. In a conversation in her office in May, Vohs stressed that money-priming did not make her subjects malicious—just disinterested. “It’s not a bad analogy to think of them as a little autistic,” she said. “I don’t think they mean any harm, but picking up pencils just isn’t their problem.”

The article continues with other more brazen experiments that are aimed to show how and when money factors into social connections and attitudes. It points out some markers that individuals are socialized to live by and may not even realize. Overall, individuals in society pride themselves based on what they have accomplished or can show for their existence up to that point and judge others accordingly. Status is not only something to aspire to, it is a classification. Through this classification, people conduct themselves by how it is believed they should. The man standing bone straight, walking confidently in the power suit walking down the street versus the homeless man cowering as he shyly asks for extra change are all examples of this very classification.

Everyday interactions with the mailman, the waitress, person holding a screaming baby, or retail clerk are all indications of  your own personal markers and perceived status.  While it may seem unfair to judge those who have a higher status as callous, this perception may have validity. Regardless of how one is raised, the introduction to a better status and the aspect of an increased quality of life is more likely to change that person’s attitude . The scope of the change is completely relative. The best way to tell, is to observe it personally. How do you feel and act on a day that you have a pocket full of cash?

Empathy. Friend or Foe?

Recent events have showcased many mixed feelings among different groups of people. The highly publicized events in Ferguson surrounding the death of Michael Brown, John Crawford, and Vonderriit Myers Jr. who were all shot by a police officer has created quite a stir. In so many words a race war ensued pointing accusatory fingers and waves of reasons for justifications on both sides. Along with the very controversial news coverage – social media exploded with support and damnation for the victim and perpetrator. The comments differ on distinguishing who the victim and perpetrator actually are named. Among the range of comments I have read on social media, one on my Facebook seemed to pinpoint a very serious issue that no one else has seemed to address.

    Why does everyone keep making this about race, where is the humanity?

Humanity. Where is our obligation to have empathy for one another? To further examine that, the question should not be where is the humanity. The question is and always has been, how is the concept of humanity used? Daily we are shown incidents of death by merciless murderers, uniformed officers using excessive force, causalities of war, or brutality fueled by hate. The answer is looming all around in plain sight. The level of empathy for another person is dependent on how they are viewed. The art of dehumanization enables the mind to disassociate itself with actions that are less than sub-par.

This practice has been seen across civilizations and generations allowing for others to seize and maintain power as well as to implement inhumane punishments based on a flawed morality. Colonization, slavery, the feudal system, tribal wars, imprisonment, apartheid, and public executions highlight the dangerous exploits of the human mind that allow us to view another life as expendable.

It is easy to attribute this type of behavior to survival. Our ancestors survival was based primarily on beating out the competition. Competition for resources whether abundant or scarce create a sort of animosity between humans. Over time the instinctual notions of this animosity began to breed subconscious hatred. One could say that this was the beginning of the loss of empathy for others and the destruction of humanity.

Times may come where the pull of a string of the heart may insight empathy from others. These instances seem to become more rare and need to meet a list of qualifications. The basics starting with: who, what, where, when and how? Those five words are the basis on how we determine who is deserving.

Can this instinctual turned learned hatred be reversed? You would think that the massive societal advances in the human race would trigger would a kill switch on this type of thinking. What some fail to realize is in time our instinctual needs adapt to these changes. Survival is always an inevitable part of living no matter how progressive the surroundings. Therefore, empathy will remain where it has always remained- stuck underneath the plight of humanity.