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January 2010

Is There an Ecological Unconscious? -

About eight years ago, Glenn Albrecht began receiving frantic calls from residents of the Upper Hunter Valley, a 6,000-square-mile region in southeastern Australia. For generations the Upper Hunter was known as the “Tuscany of the South” — an oasis of alfalfa fields, dairy farms and lush English-style shires on a notoriously hot, parched continent. “The calls were like desperate pleas,” Albrecht, a philosopher and professor of sustainability at Murdoch University in Perth, recalled in June. “They said: ‘Can you help us? We’ve tried everyone else. Is there anything you can do about this?’ ”


A fellow coalfield citizen in West Virginia sent this link around today. I found it just after I posted some thoughts about President Obama's ideas on the future of coal in West Virginia on my Earthbytes blog. The notion that people are traumatized by coal mining activity in their community is explicit in my post, but implicit (as evidenced by the Freudian slip that I made and left in the piece) is the idea that unconscious processes are at work in our lives as individuals, and in our relationships as leaders and followers, or fellow citizens of one world or one nation.

These ideas represent an intersection of my professional work and my work as a grassroots activist for social and environmental justice that have inspired much contemplation over the past few years. I have much more to write on this idea but, for now, I'll simply express my gratitude to my coalfield brother for the synchronous cross-validation.

t r u t h o u t | Human Rights and Haiti

Historically, interventions in Haiti have been viewed through the lens of charity. The international community, NGOs, international organizations and donor states have gathered time and again to announce to the world pledges of support, only to quietly back away from these commitments. The goodwill of the international community is certainly critical today to Haiti’s future but charity alone will not be enough to ultimately rebuild a safer and more sustainable Haiti. Only by forging a new path, guided by a commitment to the human rights of the Haitian people, can the international community help to create real, lasting change.


Melissa Harris-Lacewell: SOTU as National Rorschach Test

A contemporary State of the Union address is less an assessment of our national circumstances than it is a collective Rorschach test: an inkblot given meaning by the viewer more than by the subject. The televised pageantry of applause and ovations has little to do with the President's articulation of a policy agenda and far more to do with how his partisan allies and opponents read the electoral viability of his phrases.

President Obama's address on Wednesday night felt like a heightened version of this classic psychological evaluation. Reactions to it will tell us less about the President and more about the country and our willingness to embrace and tackle the difficulties that we face.


The Big Theories Underwriting Society Are Crashing All Around Us -- Are You Ready for a New World? | | AlterNet

Many of the ideas and institutions that define our culture are breaking down -- and that's a good thing, say Bruce Lipton and Steve Bhaerman. In their new book, Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future and a Way to Get There from Here, they write that today's crises are part of a natural process -- clearing out what no longer serves us to make room for a new way of being. Are they cockeyed optimists or do they see things others miss?


Psychodynamic psychotherapy brings lasting benefits, new study finds

ScienceDaily (Jan. 27, 2010) — Psychodynamic psychotherapy is effective for a wide range of mental health symptoms, including depression, anxiety, panic and stress-related physical ailments, and the benefits of the therapy grow after treatment has ended, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.


Legislated to Death -- In These Times

As the early morning sun rose over Kampala on Oct. 14, 2009, Gug lay in bed and contemplated his life. (“Gug” is a pseudonym he uses on his blog,, which provides a rare view into the LGBT experience in his country.) Regular power outages yield dead laptop batteries. They also assure intimate candlelight dinners…and sex. For this workaday poet in his mid-30s, it was time to wake up and face the harsh realities and intoxicating beauty of his country, a juxtaposition he knows all too well. By lunchtime, his life as a gay Ugandan would become riskier than he could imagine.


Are Millennials Cursed? -- In These Times

The rap on today’s Millennial Generation (everyone born after the mid-1970s) is that they are coddled, overexposed and overindulged. They are told they are special and believe that to be the case. Reality TV shows capture the deep yearning among the younger generation to be “discovered” and become famous, hopefully overnight. Even if they are denied a “role” on reality TV, there are countless other more easily accessible media outlets on the Internet, like YouTube, MySpace, Facebook and Flickr.

But the drive for fame reflects a new sense of existential aloneness and a desperate need to be recognized. The desire for fame is often driven by a fear of mortality and the need to gain a fleeting sense of immortality or at least to know that one’s existence is duly noted, recognized and celebrated by millions of others.


t r u t h o u t | Henry A. Giroux on His Book "Youth in a Suspect Society: Democracy or Disposability?"

While youth have always represented an ambiguous category, they have within the last thirty years been under assault in unprecedented ways. The book identifies a number of forces—including unfettered free-market ideology, a dehumanizing mode of consumerism, the rise of the racially skewed punishing state, and the attack on public and higher education—that have come together to pose a threat to young people. The combined threat of these forces is so extreme it can be accurately described as a “war on youth.”


t r u t h o u t | Advertisers and Politicians Hunt for the "Buy-Button" in Your Brain

Using a form of marketing known as neuromarketing, corporations and politicians are using MRIs, EEGs, and other brain-scan and medical technology to craft irresistible media messages designed to shift buying habits, political beliefs and voting patterns, as described in the World Business Academy's video "Spellcasters."

By measuring activity in different parts of the brain in response to an ad or other media message, advertisers and political consultants can create advertising campaigns that tap into the pre-conscious brain. The idea is to assess central nervous system response to certain ads, the better to skirt the viewers' rational thought.


Check out World Business Academy's video on neuromarketing. You can also sign a petition for their Stop Neuromarketing campaign on the video's page.

Drew Westen: Obama Finally Gets His Victory For Bipartisanship

It is a truly remarkable feat, in just one year's time, to turn the fear and anger voters felt in 2006 and 2008 at a Republican Party that had destroyed the economy, redistributed massive amounts of wealth from the middle class to the richest of the rich and the biggest of big businesses, and waged a trillion-dollar war in the wrong country, into populist rage at whatever Democrat voters can cast their ballot against.

All of this was completely predictable. And it was predicted. I wrote about it for the first time here on the sixth day of Obama's presidency, and many of us have written about it in the intervening year.