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Utne Reader Spring 2018

Since 1984, Utne Reader has been the vanguard of the alternative press, celebrating independent news and views from across the political spectrum. With ideas, trends and solutions you won’t see in the mainstream media for months or even years, those who want to know what’s happening next, read Utne Reader first.

United States
Ogden Publications, Inc.
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access_time2 min.
the yin to your yang

WHENEVER I DISCUSS climate change with others, I often play the role of pessimist and cynic. I see too many examples from our species’ past that illustrate how equally amazing and tragic humanity is; how equally capable we are at creating and destroying. It’s such a pattern through human history that I have to believe the nature of humanity is to burn bright, then burn out. Take any one of the strategies offered for confronting human-caused climate change. To truly work, they would require us to give up conveniences and creature comforts our society isn’t willing to abandon. Yet, the scientific consensus is clear: If we don’t change our ways—and fast—we’re going to make this planet inhospitable for humanity. We are still taking baby steps toward the solutions, while many climate…

access_time3 min.

RESPONDING TO “WHAT IF GOVERNMENT JUST GAVE EVERY-ONE CASH, NO STRINGS ATTACHED?” (WINTER 2017) Great article by Zach Patton, but it contains a common misconception; in fact, it’s an unnecessary and illusory stumbling block. He assumes it must be “paid for” with taxes. It can be paid for with “greenbacks”—dollars printed not by the Federal Reserve bank but by the U.S. government. This has been done several times in the past. In fact, the president can do something similar on his own authority without resorting to Congress by minting coins (think million dollar coins). Bankers don’t like this. They’ve been monopolizing money creation with their loans. They and their ilk will cry “inflation” and point to 1920s Germany. Greenbacks could be inflationary if they are competing for scarce resources (i.e. bidding up prices of…

access_time23 min.
power shift

Things were looking pretty sunny for alternative energy sources back in 2005. Though still resisted by conservative politicians and allied voters, human-caused climate change was accepted as fact by the vast majority of scientists, many business leaders, and even the Pentagon. Energy security was a major concern for the armed services, given that U.S. troops were fighting and dying in Iraq, home to the world’s fifth largest reserve of oil—the substance that America was “addicted to,” according to President (and former oil man) George W. Bush. Against that backdrop, funding was pouring into top universities and associated laboratories engaged in carbon-neutral energy research, and University of California-Berkeley was among the top beneficiaries. Under its director, Steven Chu, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL) launched the Helios Project, an ambitious initiative to develop…

access_time18 min.
crisis among the palms

In May 2015, villagers in Butaw, Liberia, heard a rumor that the CEO of Golden Veroleum, a palm oil company that is one of the few sources of employment in the area, was coming for a visit. It was big news, and the Butaw Youth Association saw an opportunity. They wrote the CEO a letter requesting a meeting: “Please address our plight,” they insisted, by which they meant the theft of their families’ lands, grinding poverty, and wage labor on the plantations that never yielded enough to get beyond mere survival. But the company official declined their invitation, setting off an uprising fueled by years of unrest, and a vicious backlash. “The Liberian Police arrested peaceful citizens and beat them,” D. Terry Panyonnoh, vice president of the Butaw Youth Association, told…

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how you can #defunddeforestation

In recent years we’ve seen a great uptick in awareness of the ways that palm oil and other commodities like soy, beef, and paper, are destroying tropical rainforests. But once you’re aware of the problem, what can you do? One key step is to simply consume consciously, consume less, and get involved in campaigns to make consumer goods companies uphold environmental and human rights standards. But, as described in this article, rainforest destruction is not driven only by consumer goods, but by the way our money is invested. To address this problem, Friends of the Earth runs a campaign to #DefundDeforestation that offers several ways to follow the money and take action. The campaign began by identifying the top 10 U.S. investors in palm oil production: BlackRock, Vanguard, JPMorganChase, Fidelity, TIAA, Northern…

access_time10 min.
digging for nothing

When, for a time in the 1980s, the medical drama St. Elsewhere was the most-watched series on television, few people had ever heard of the seventh-century St. Eligius for whom the fictional hospital was named. Fewer still would have known the profession for which Eligius was patron. I was one who did. My youthful fascination with the calendar of the saints—a literal calendar started it, one given away free at the back of the church each new year—has studded my memory with loads of such largely useless information. St. Eligius, I happened to know, was the patron saint of excavators. Maybe St. Eligius smiled on a warm day of April when my daughter Annie, who was 7 at the time, asked if she could dig a hole. It seemed the most natural…