Changing Climate, Changing People

It seems that climate change is less a result of physical actions and more of a result of an age old system. Capitalism has fostered a human dependence on fossil fuels, a need for consumerism, and economic expansion. Money and greed are killing our planet, especially as of late. Within the last ten years temperatures have risen significantly and if something is not done quickly it may be too late (Capitalism vs The Climate).
I find it sad that some areas that severely suffer from the effects of climate change have no major economy, and therefore do not contribute largely to the issue. Take for example the Carteret Islands in Papa New Guinea, they trade by means of shells- this is not one of the industrialized countries whose economic systems call for mass production, shipping, and drilling. Yet, these people were forced to leave their island as it is going underwater due to the rising sea levels destroying their farming land (Sun Come Up).
This is a prime example of structural violence, these people need food and a place to live but the system of industrialized capitalism is taking that away from them, no matter how indirectly. Just as with capitalism within a single country, the richest are receiving all the benefits and the poor are left to face the consequences. Capitalism is affecting those who do not even participate in the global system- how is this fair? By looking at climate change in terms of violence on other peoples and acknowledging the importance of saving cultures, perhaps we can call more attention to this issue and get a new group of advocates to step up.



To Serve and Protect Who?

The tragedy in Ferguson is a well-known event that has shaken the country. However, police brutality is nothing new. It seems that more and more unarmed citizens, predominantly if not all African American, are being killed or injured, and the cops are not receiving any punishment or penalty. Why is this? Some say racism, after all “…Ferguson police stop more blacks than other groups. Three out Ferguson’s 53 police officers are black while blacks make up the majority of the town.” (Ferguson: An American Story). As Codrington states, there are clearly structural disparities which do not help the situation within Ferguson itself. But, this is not an isolated issue, it has affected the system as a whole, why?
A sort of fictive kinship has been created within the establishment of the police force. Officers feel deep loyalty towards one another, as they should, they need to protect one another. But it seems they put this loyalty over their loyalty to protect the American public. Instead of defending a fellow officer after they have shot an unarmed citizen perhaps members of the police force should emphasize the importance of the safety of the citizens- it seems easier to prevent a mess from happening rather than having to clean it up after.
This is issue should be addressed from the beginning of police training. If the idea of fictive kinship relationships were formed between officers and the citizens first and then between fellow officers, perhaps we would have less cases of police brutality.


Unequal Stressors?

It has been found that men and women respond to stress differently. Specifically, these differences may be the reason for the wide gap in mathematic test scores among men and women in the U.S. While men experience a “fight or flight” response where it “invokes resources that increase focus, alertness and fear, while inhibiting appetitive goals to cope with the threat or challenge” (Wang et al. 2007:236), women are faced with the “tend and befriend” response, meaning their resources that invoke these valuable responses are duller yet the stress is still the same (Women on Tests Update: Response to Stress).
This means that women are at a disadvantage. Beginning during their school years they feel inferior to those who perform better than they do on tests, in this case mathematical tests, and when it is men that generally perform better it is no wonder we continue to be viewed as and feel inferior. The question here is whether this stress reaction is truly and purely biological or if there are social aspects contributing to it.
With the help of anthropology, one could study different cultures and their gender equality and compare this to the average test performance comparison between men and women. By exploring these questions we can trace how directly society affects tests performance. It is important to see if it is culture that has created this divide, for if that is the case then it is a solvable problem and will bring us closer to equality and allow greater success for women.


Technological Boundaries

Cities are hotbeds for social and political activism and protest. Their population is divided into different groups with different values which align themselves with one another to act out common practices. One way of monitoring their “spatial practice” is to investigate their social media usage and communication, particularly, as Samuel Gerald Collins spoke about in his piece, their use of Twitter.
Collins says that by studying this data we are studying the thoughts of the people in a common area. This is an interesting concept that can be used to study multiple cultures and how they all interact in one confined space. People connect through their smartphones, laptops, etc. constantly. They are constantly moving and have the capability to share their thoughts and organize groups anywhere they go. However, not everyone has the means to do this.
I think that this means of communication, while beneficial to those who can afford the technologies necessary to use it, excludes a key part of the population. People with a lower economic status do not always have access to such technologies and they are the group that needs the most help, which could be gained through activism. It is a classist concept that those who need the most help do not have the ability to obtain it as easily as privileged people. If anthropologists target the most active groups, they could create organizations whose aim is to help the lower classes get what they require, thus balancing the social hierarchy more effectively.


Online College Education: Missing Links

The idea of online education, or MOOC, creates an excited energy not only for the prospective student, but for those selling the idea. The promise of independence and flexibility that comes with an online education is extremely appealing to people who have families to take care of or who work multiple jobs. While marketers prey on these desires, they fail to mention some things. Sadly, 85% of MOOC students’ dropout, which poses a challenge in creating a strong educational environment.
Christina Wasson recounts some weaknesses of MOOC’s in her study. She shows that while “cognitive presence” can be supported in the online educational world, in most cases the “social presence” and “teaching presence” is absent. Basically, critical thinking does happen within these environments, however the usually large class sizes detract from the social interactions that go along with a college experience.
This may be because at college campuses, where students are interacting with peers and professors in and out of the classroom, a form of fictive kinship is created. Students have duties to complete their work and go to class, as well as help their peers adjust to college life. This give and take creates a supportive and clear social system, which encourages the student to succeed. Often, students refer to their college as their “home”, thus supporting the familial sense that is present within groups on campuses. In order to succeed MOOC’s need to find ways to create these bonds, the first step being to reduce dropouts rates to create a more socially stable environment.


Demystifying MOOCs: An Eye-Opening Ethnographic Study of Online Education

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Good or Bad?


This past summer, more than 114 million dollars were raised thanks to the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” social media campaign. The very nature of this campaign, dumping ice water on your head, donating ten dollars, and passing the challenge on to friends, made a show out of donating to charity. It was a trend that simultaneously made its participants feel like they were doing something for the greater good.
But is this the greatest good? ALS is a disease that predominantly affects white males. May this have something to do with the campaigns popularity? As Matt Thompson pointed out in his article, “Is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge about structural inequality?”, major diseases such as Malaria did not receive such highly publicized attention. Similarly, the major concern for Ebola in the U.S did not truly spark until two white Americans were at risk. It appears there is a connection between race, health, and public attention.
Our society has created a social hierarchy in which the more privileged (predominantly white Americans) have precedence over the less privileged (predominantly black Americans). This inequality has made its way into the health of citizens. By studying the social structure of our country and others, it would be possible to target the groups and diseases that need the most attention. By doing so we can create a global standard for health and allow all people and diseases equal opportunity to gain the aid and attention they require.