Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction, by Christopher Wright & Daniel Nyberg

Processes of Creative Self-Destruction

Source: Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction

An extremely well-researched and readable text which includes five case studies, demonstrating the role of business and the ‘green economy’ narrative in re-capturing activists, academics and civil society in the processes of ‘creative self-destruction’. An indispensable text for anyone seeking to understand why change is so slow to happen – and why it must.

Meet the Merchants of Doubt: The PR Firms Giving You Cancer, Causing Acid Rain and Killing the Planet – The Daily Beast

A new documentary, Merchants of Doubt, shows how you’re being lied to.

Wei-Hock Soon doesn’t appear in the new documentary Merchants of Doubt, but he might as well be its poster child. That’s because director Robert Kenner’s film, which opens in select cities on March 6, is about how the tobacco, fossil-fuel and other industries hire so-called “scientific experts” to refute charges that their products are dangerous. Soon, a scientist who claims that variations in the sun’s energy, not greenhouse gases, can explain climate change, was recently discovered to have received over $1.2 million from fossil-fuel companies to fund his research. He has reportedly failed to disclose this conflict of interest to the journals that published his papers—and seems to be the latest in a long line of scientists and spokespersons paid to cast doubt on independent scientific research.

Some of these doubters are “ideologically committed, some are just in it for the money, some in it for the attention,” says Naomi Oreskes, co-author (with Erik M. Conway) of the book on which the film is based.

Merchants of Doubt shows how the tobacco industry realized smoking caused cancer as early as the 1950s, but stonewalled the issue for decades by hiring PR firms to refute legitimate scientific research. “This whole strategy was created and raised to a fine art by the tobacco industry,” says Oreskes. “And once they developed this tool kit, they spread it. They tried to develop allies in other industries who also felt threats from inconvenient science. That you couldn’t trust science, and what was needed was ‘sound science.’”

This strategy, which Kenner’s film traces through the tobacco, dioxin, asbestos and fossil fuel industries, involves several key elements:

Paying scientists to do research that will support the industry’s claims.

Setting up organizations with names like Citizens for Fire Safety and Americans for Free Enterprise, which purport to be legitimate advocacy groups, but are really just shills for corporate interests.

Creating a class of media savvy “experts,” who may or may not be scientists, but whose basic function is to debate, and cast doubt on, the work of legitimate scientific researchers.

Making these experts available to journalists, to provide “balance” in the reporting of these issues, even when there is no real scientific debate about the subject.

These last two elements are key to the merchants-of-doubt approach, and make use of journalistic ethics about providing “equal time” to opposing viewpoints. They also play into the scientific community’s basic inability to explain difficult concepts. “Scientists are trained to do science, and it’s hard enough to do the science,” says Oreskes. “And now you’re saying you have to be an effective communicator as well? It’s not their job.”

via Meet the Merchants of Doubt: The PR Firms Giving You Cancer, Causing Acid Rain and Killing the Planet – The Daily Beast.

The MOOC bubble and the attack on public education | Academic Matters

Instead of building networks, the neoliberal MOOC is driven by a desire to liberate and empower the individual, breaking apart actually-existing academic communities and refocusing on the individual’s acquisition of knowledge. The MOOCs being praised by utopian technologists in the New York Times appear to be the diametric opposite of what Siemens, Downes, and Cormier said they were trying to create, even if they deploy some of the same idealistic rhetoric. Traditional courses seek to transfer content from expert to student in a lecture or seminar setting. The original MOOCs stemmed from a connectivist desire to decentralize and de-institutionalize the traditional model, creating fundamentally open and open-ended networks of circulation and collaboration. In contrast, the MOOCs which are now being developed by Silicon Valley startups Udacity and Coursera, as well as by non-profit initiatives like edX, aim to do exactly the same thing that traditional courses have always done—transfer course content from expert to student—only to do so massively more cheaply and on a much larger scale. Far from de-institutionalizing education or making learning less hierarchical, some of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the world are treating the MOOC as a lifeline in troubled economic waters, leveraging “super-professors” to maintain their position of excellence atop the educational field, and even creating new hierarchical arrangements among universities.

via The MOOC bubble and the attack on public education | Academic Matters.

Reclaiming the civic university | Academic Matters

Since the 1950s, universities have also been seen as places of research that can contribute in the long run to society, especially to our economy, culture, public policy, and health. Over the past 15 or so years, support for university research has expanded enormously just as the system was expanding at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Federal research funding grew fourfold; provincial funding tripled.It is hard to imagine how we might give universities a higher priority and standing. Their central place in a knowledge-based society is acknowledged and secure.Are our universities today civic universities? Certainly a civic university must be publicly supported, and our universities have received major increases in public support.But many people would answer that they are not. There is concern, tending toward deep disquiet, and some would argue a crisis. Our universities and the way we think about them have been changing.Universities are thought of more and more as institutions of the economy.

via Reclaiming the civic university | Academic Matters.

U of S fires Robert Buckingham after he spoke out on TransformUs – Saskatoon – CBC News

The head of the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Public Health was fired this morning after he spoke out against the school’s TransformUs restructuring plan.

The university confirmed that it fired professor Robert Buckingham, but would not comment further.

When Buckingham showed up to work this morning, he said he was met by two police officers. He said they handed him a note, which talked about a letter he released yesterday called ‘The Silence of the Deans.’

Buckingham said the university claimed he breached his contract through the letter, and irrevocably damaged his relationship with the university.

He was escorted off campus by the pair of officers. He was told to stay off university property, but will be allowed to return at a later date to collect his personal belongings.

He said his tenure and benefits have been revoked.and cannot comment further until he obtains a lawyer.

U of S reaction

Brett Fairbairn, provost and vice-president academic at the University of Saskatchewan, said in a statement issued today that leadership positions at the institution are roles of trust and stewardship.

“It is not open to anyone to wear the hat of a leader and a non-leader simultaneously,” he said in the statement.

Fairbairn said that being a leader includes putting the good of the organization ahead of one’s own interests or views. He added that deans and other senior leaders had opportunities throughout the TransformUs process to raise their views in small and large group settings.

Sask. opposition weighs in

Saskatchewan opposition leader Cam Broten said that Premier Brad Wall should be calling university president Illene Busch-Vishniac in for a meeting. He said the provincial government did not hesitate to get involved at First Nations University of Canada and the University of Regina in 2005.

The leader of the Saskatchewan NDP said this is “not some university in Arizona run out of someone’s basement” but a real, reputable university whose reputation will be hurt by this.

‘The Silence of the Deans’

In a public letter Buckingham titled “The Silence of the Deans”, he detailed a December 2013 meeting between senior academic leaders at the school. He said Deans and Vice-Presidents were in attendance. Buckingham claims that president Busch-Vishniac told the group not to “publicly disagree with the process or findings of TransformUs”. Buckingham alleges President Busch-Vishniac went on to tell the group that if they did speak out against the cost-cutting process their “tenure would be short”.

“I felt, at that time, [the] deans were being threatened,” Buckingham told CBC News on Tuesday afternoon, a few hours after his letter was raised by the NDP in Question Period at the Legislature. “If we did share publicly, [President Busch-Vishniac] stated that our tenure would be short. I thought that was a threat. What I am concerned about here is freedom of speech at a university,” Buckingham said.

Warned again

Buckingham, who became Dean of the School of Public Health at the U of S in 2009, said it was always his intention to come to the school, improve the school and leave his post at the university after five years. Because of this, he contends university administration, including Provost Brett Fairbairn were vigilant in reminding him that speaking out against TransformUs, publicly, was not condoned; especially as the university prepared to make the details of the TransformUs plan public in May 2014.

Buckingham points to an email sent by Provost Fairbairn on April 29, 2014, addressed to him and Dr. Ken Sutherland the Associate Dean and Professor of Fixed Prosthodontics at the U of S, as evidence that academic leaders were muzzled.

An excerpt from the email reads; “you are in an especially tough position and are subject to the expectation the president has of all of its leaders, that you will support TransformUs and the university’s messaging.”

University issues statement

Following the circulation of Buckingham’s letter on Tuesday, CBC News requested an interview with either President Busch-Vishniac or Provost Fairbairn. CBC News was advised no formal interview would ever be granted on the matter, however the university’s communications department forwarded the following statement and said it was attributable to the Provost:

“The University of Saskatchewan has high expectations of its senior leaders to support the university’s directions and to lead their implementation. Top among current priorities are the university’s TransformUS initiatives. Leaders have opportunities to express personal opinions in leadership discussions. Once decisions are made, all leaders are expected to support the university’s directions,” read the statement.

However, Buckingham hopes his decision to publicly speak out against TransformUs will encourage others in similar positions to do the same.

“I certainly felt stifled and muzzled,” Buckingham said “I think there are probably other Deans at this university who are feeling muzzled also, afraid to speak out.”

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via U of S fires Robert Buckingham after he spoke out on TransformUs – Saskatoon – CBC News.

12 Reasons Why New Zealand’s Economic Bubble Will End In Disaster – Forbes

“New Zealand’s economy has been hailed as one of world’s top safe-haven economies in recent years after it emerged from Global Financial Crisis relatively unscathed. Unfortunately, my research has found that many of today’s so-called safe-havens (such as Singapore) are experiencing economic bubbles that are strikingly similar to those that led to the financial crisis in the first place.

Though I will be writing a lengthy report about New Zealand’s economic bubble in the near future, I wanted to use this column to outline key points that are helpful for those who are looking for a concise explanation of this bubble.”

via 12 Reasons Why New Zealand’s Economic Bubble Will End In Disaster – Forbes.

Goldman Sachs Declares Solar Energy Will Soon Be Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels, and Elon Musk is a Genius | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building

We often assume that Wall Street investment bankers represent everything that is anti-environment. The truth is, all investment bankers care about is money. In many cases, this drives them to support corporate loopholes and industry practices that put the environment at risk, but not always. In 2012, Goldman Sachs surprised the world by announcing $40 billion in clean energy investments. And just a few months ago, Goldman Sachs said that the renewable energy sector is one of the most compelling and attractive markets. Now they’ve gone a step further. According to the firm’s recent report, not only is solar power a good investment, it’s also poised to make fossil fuels obsolete:

via Goldman Sachs Declares Solar Energy Will Soon Be Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels, and Elon Musk is a Genius | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building.

The Global Elite: Rigging the Rules That Fuel Inequality | Common Dreams

The global elite have rigged the rules so that \”economic growth looks more like a winner-take-all system\” that undermines democracy and threatens future generations with a \”cascade of privilege and disadvantage,\” a new report from Oxfam states.

Image: Oxfam

The report, Working for the Few: Political capture and economic inequality, states that just 85 of the world\’s richest people own the wealth of half of the world’s population.

via The Global Elite: Rigging the Rules That Fuel Inequality | Common Dreams.

Davos Elite Message Deserves Fierce Resistance Not Applause | Common Dreams

Even amid seemingly thoughtful discussions about climate change, economic inequality, water scarcity and other key global issues, whats important to remember, says Alex Jensen, an expert on globalization and development at the International Society for Ecology and Culture ISEC, is that a critical look at any of these crises shows \”the complicity of the very corporations that the WEF represents.\”Beyond its glossy \”veneer,\” Jensen says, the Davos summit acts as a stage \”for multinational corporations, among them human rights abusers, political racketeers, property thieves and international environmental criminals.\”

via Davos Elite Message Deserves Fierce Resistance Not Applause | Common Dreams.

NRC to only pursue ‘commercially viable’ science | Canada | News | Toronto Sun

“Scientific discovery is not valuable unless it has commercial value,” John McDougall, president of the NRC, said in announcing the shift in the NRC’s research focus away from discovery science solely to research the government deems “commercially viable”.

via NRC to only pursue ‘commercially viable’ science | Canada | News | Toronto Sun.