A $1 billion MegaMillions jackpot was recently won by someone in Michigan. Will it bring happiness? Studies suggest almost certainly not. This article from New Philosopher (Australia) considers why greater freedom from employment or greater freedom to engage in material pursuits may not be the ticket to happiness.
"[I]s [it] possible to be happy without purpose? You might feel the temporary thrill of release at stepping outside of goal-driven expectations, of letting yourself off the hook or climbing off the wheel of capitalist productivity. The allure here is that in the absence of purpose one might be free. ... Or consider the classic retirement scenario that promises happiness off the back of ceasing any purposeful activity. Retire, and the woes of the world are no longer yours to care about! You can play golf, sun yourself on the beach, read novels, drink at lunchtime. The rules of engagement no longer apply since you’ve done your bit, served your time, given the best of your life to the work ethic. Earned the gold watch and the heartfelt handshake. So off you go now to drift into your own rosy sunset and never look back. ... [Yet] studies too numerous to mention correlate the kind of post-work scenario associated with classic retirement with rising rates of depression (not to mention alcoholism and other kinds of chemical and emotional dependency). In researching his wonderful study of late life and human finitude, Being Mortal, the doctor and writer Atul Gawande interviewed dozens of elderly and terminally ill people in an attempt to discover what factors, mental and physical, contributed to their happiness and wellbeing as they confronted the very real prospect of dying. Time and again, he found that having purpose led to greater happiness than having grandchildren who visited, or enjoying social connection or material comfort. ... Lockdown has paralysed so many of us these past months, suspending us inside our domestic bubbles and robbing us of purpose. The enforced passivity is infantilising: furloughed from our working lives, banned from caring for family and friends beyond our immediate households, debarred from public service – unless we’re ‘key workers’– we’ve sunk into a kind of collective funk. ... At the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at the University of Berkeley in California, happiness experts are busy studying our lockdown behaviour. They want to see if, in these straitened times, small steps can fill the shoes of larger life goals. It is no accident that people have been sewing masks, baking bread, taking online courses, embracing DIY. It’s exactly the kind of ‘intentional activity’ that GGSC psychologists such as Sonia Lyubomirsky recommend as part of what she calls the ‘architecture of sustainable happiness’, which supports and builds feelings of subjective wellbeing."
Some of the first detailed maps of the seafloor were produced by Marie Tharp, a geologist and cartographer who was barred from ocean-mapping voyages because she was a woman. Instead, she stayed ashore and analyzed the data collected. Her iconic maps -- like this one from 1977 www.sciencenews.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/010521_sn100_earth_spotlight-tharp_inline1-1004x580.jpg -- revolutionized the understanding of ocean topography and were instrumental in tipping the scales toward continental drift theory. (from www.sciencenews.org/article/marie-tharp-maps-plate-tectonics-seafloor-cartography)
Based on results from Standard & Poor's Global Literacy Survey, only 57% of American adults are considered financially literate. Likewise, the U.S. financial industry's National Financial Capabilities Survey finds that, on average, Americans get only 3 of 6 basic questions about finance correct. Want to try yourself? Here's the quiz along with explanations for each answer: www.usfinancialcapability.org/quiz.php
The UN recently announced that outbreaks of ovine rinderpest, a highly contagious sheep and goat virus with a fatality rate of 30-70%, have fallen by two-thirds in the last few years following an aggressive animal vaccination campaign. According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, some 300 million families worldwide rely on sheep and/or goats for food and income. This Reddit map highlights the nine countries in which there are actually more sheep than people: preview.redd.it/kbcnvrb260d61.jpg?width=960&crop=smart&auto=webp&s=aa0e81d39c1284f17aba8bbfb617683bd94345c8
Not enough domestic conflict for you? This article from Foreign Policy profiles 10 "conflicts to watch" in 2021: foreignpolicy.com/2020/12/29/10-conflicts-to-watch-in-2021-ethiopia-iran-yemen-somalia-venezuela
Is the Dust Bowl making a comeback? With farmers in the Great Plains tilling marginal soils to plant more corn for ethanol production and droughts contributing to the lowest summer soil moisture levels in 1200 years, dust levels are rising. Researchers at the University of Utah, for instance, have found that since 2000, dust cover in the Great Plains has been increasing by 5% per year. (This article doesn't even account for the draining of the Ogallala Aquifer that undergirds agricultural production in the western half of the region.) geographical.co.uk/nature/climate/item/3942-return-of-the-dustbowl-why-the-great-plains-are-in-trouble
The Centers for Disease Control has an interactive map tracking COVID vaccinations by state, detailing the numbers of vaccines distributed and administered, in both absolute numbers and as a percentage of the population. Alaska and West Virginia have managed to vaccinate the greatest proportion of their populations (~10% have received 1 or more doses). Missouri and Idaho have vaccinated the least (~4% of their populations have received 1 or more dose). covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations
The philosophy of language considers, among other things, the interplay between language and thought: how does the way we talk or write about something affect the way we think about it? This short exercise helps illustrate this phenomenon: www.philosophyexperiments.com/framing/Default.aspx
This geo-graphic from The Economist (UK) features an assessment by Oxford Economics ranking countries' vulnerability to long-term COVID-related economic damage:
As with most museums and educational institutions, the National Archives has moved its events online. Later this month, for example, the Archives will be hosting free lunchtime talks with the authors of new books sharing lesser-known stories in U.S. history: The Black Civil War Soldier: A Visual History of Conflict and Citizenship (Jan. 27, noon-1pm ET) and Forgotten Legacy: William McKinley, George Henry White, and the Struggle for Black Equality (Jan. 29, noon-1pm ET). Programs can be viewed on the Archives' YouTube channel. The calendar is updated with new events regularly: www.archives.gov/calendar
Archived data from the alternative social media app Parler is being used by a developer nicknamed "Patr10tic" to create an interactive map of events in and around the Capitol on Jan. 6. Users can click on the map pins to watch video snippets recorded by Parler users in those locations: thepatr10t.github.io/yall-Qaeda/ (from www.theverge.com/2021/1/14/22231749/parler-interactive-map-video-gps-capitol-attack)
So which COVID vaccine should Ukraine get? It's not a straightforward answer. The Trump administration blocked exports of U.S. vaccines. Ukraine's current government would be loathe to buy the Russian vaccine. Western Europe is busy acquiring enough for its own populations. Into this geopolitical battle, China stepped in and sold Ukraine nearly 2 million doses of its vaccine, to be delivered next month, scoring soft power points as it has by making its vaccine available throughout the developing world. www.nytimes.com/2021/01/09/world/europe/covid-vaccines-ukraine.html
From Australia to both coasts of the U.S. to Siberia, extreme weather set numerous records in 2020. This article from Science News recaps some of the year's extreme weather events around the world. www.sciencenews.org/article/climate-change-wildfires-heat-waves-hurricanes-records-2020
My recent post about the role of cows in global methane production raised questions about which U.S. states have the most to gain by reducing their herds' methane output to create climate-friendly milk and beef. The states with the largest herds of dairy cows are shown in white on this map; the states with the most beef cattle are shown in brown on this map.
In late March 2020, I did a "Philosophically Speaking" post on the ethical calculus of vaccine distribution. At that point, even though ethicists have wrestled with these issues for years, a COVID vaccine was theoretical and in the distant future. Now that the various vaccines are being deployed, the ethics of vaccine distribution are no longer theoretical: who belongs where in the line? This article from The New York Times Magazine shares the views of five physicians, epidemiologists, and bioethicists: www.nytimes.com/2020/12/24/magazine/who-should-get-the-covid-vaccine-next.html
According to a new report by the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau, kidnappings by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea hit a new record in 2020, with 130 crew members kidnapped in 22 separate incidents in 2020. With "with well-armed and violent gangs defying regional navies and marauding further out to sea," pirates in the Gulf of Guinea accounted for 95% of at-sea kidnappings globally in 2020. Although the Gulf of Guinea borders more than half a dozen countries and covers nearly 900,000 square miles, most of the pirates are believed to operate out of the Niger Delta region of southern Nigeria (major city: Port Harcourt). Quote from www.reuters.com/article/us-nigeria-security-pirates/gulf-of-guinea-pirate-kidnappings-hit-record-in-2020-idUSKBN29I1RV
Today is part of Pongal, a three- or four-day Hindu harvest festival celebrated in South India (particularly in Tamil parts of the country). One of the foods traditionally associated with Pongal is a rice and jaggery dish. Jaggery is not unlike brown sugar, usually made from sugarcane (as shown in this video) or palm sap: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikvAfQYYmV8
For many countries, COVID and its associated economic impacts are contributing to what some are referring to as a "debt tsunami," an enormous wave of debt heading towards an unsuspecting shore. This topological map from The Washington Post shows debt as a percentage of GDP. (From www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/01/10/coronavirus-pandemic-debt-crisis.)
What makes for far-right violence in the U.S.? Based on the work of a pair of researchers at Oklahoma State, it's not poverty or economic decline (in fact, they find most right-wing extremists are "relatively successful" middle class) and it's not more common in areas with greater ethnic diversity (in fact, they find more right-wing terrorism in U.S. counties that are overwhelmingly white).
Instead, the three factors most predictive of right-wing extremism are:
1. "[D]istrust of mainstream political figures and institutions. This is not the general skepticism of government that is central to Republican ideology, but it is a complete rejection of any legitimate legal authority.... This extreme political cynicism legitimizes the belief that political violence is necessary to defend their rights. It fuels a distrust in elections as a mechanism for settling policy disputes ... [and it] makes people less willing to trust political institutions to constrain their opponents."
2. "[T]he belief in 'white victimhood' or 'aggrieved entitlement.' This is the message promoted on right-wing social media, and emphasizes the victimization of the traditionally dominant White Christian male, with empowered women, minorities and immigrants becoming the villains. ... Despite what many may think, this isn’t a story of economic hardship — it is a fear of lost privilege. Many modern right-wing adherents come from the relatively successful middle class. Indeed, although men are more likely to engage in violence, White middle-class women from the suburbs are one of the fastest-growing groups of believers of QAnon and other right-wing conspiracy theories."
3. "[D]ivisive language — used by politicians to mobilize their base — helps normalize the perception that a group is under threat and violent action is necessary. While violence may not be a politician’s goal, individuals exposed to even 'mild violent metaphors' are more likely to support political violence against opposing groups than those who receive more neutral messages. ... Drawing on data on instances of right-wing attacks from 1970 to 2016, we found that this violence was more likely to happen in counties that were electorally competitive — that is, places where Democratic and Republican votes were roughly equivalent."
There is a new geographic feature popping up in the permafrost of northern Siberia: exploding craters, in some cases well over 150 feet deep. Scientists are working to riddle out what is causing these enormous holes, which started developing in 2013 and have been known to explode with enough force to eject rocks and ice more than 300 feet. (Hint: methane may be playing a role.) www.bbc.com/future/article/20201130-climate-change-the-mystery-of-siberias-explosive-craters
One of the consequences of the decennial United States population census is a reapportionment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. This map, from The Wall Street Journal, shows the expected gains and losses of House seats, by state. (from www.wsj.com/articles/lawmakers-prepare-for-battles-over-congressional-redistricting-11609151400)
Having re-watched "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" recently, I was again struck by the wonderful Dr. Seuss line about the Grinch "puzzling and puzzling ... till his puzzler was sore." If you enjoy puzzling until your puzzler is sore, you may enjoy these logic puzzles and paradoxes from the University of Rochester's philosophy department: www.sas.rochester.edu/phl/puzzles.html
How is the COVID vaccine rollout going? This geo-graphic ranks countries leading in vaccines administered as a percentage of the population: www.statista.com/chart/23833/covid-19-vaccination-doses-per-100-people
I won't be able to teach my "Mission Possible: Global Issues, Leadership Choices" until summer at the earliest, but in the meantime, you can visit Nation States to create and run your own online country: www.nationstates.net/
At least 100 villagers in southeastern Niger were killed earlier this week, most likely by a local Islamic State affiliate. Niger's Tillabéri Region (shown in red on this Voice of America map) borders Mali (to the north), Burkina Faso (to the west), and Benin (to the south). Over the last few years, jihadist violence has spilled over the border from Mali into both Burkina Faso and Niger. im-media.voltron.voanews.com/Drupal/01live-166/2019-04/C3B88A7B-EE15-4D42-80CF-676873F0E560.png
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