Now that Americans have cast their ballots in the midterms, it’s time to turn our attention to another popularity contest. The 2018 People’s Choice Awards, in which fans vote on their favorite pop-culture treasures, is happening tonight. The voting part already ended, but the awards ceremony takes place at Barker Hanger in Santa Monica, California.
The awards, now part of NBCUniversal’s E! network after years on CBS, celebrate a number of categories including music, TV, movies, and the stars themselves. It also has some wackier categories like most binge-worthy show. You can check out the full (very long) list of finalists here. There’s no actual host this year, but E! promises a star-studded performance lineup, including an opening performance by Nicki Minaj.
Red Carpet coverage is set to begin today (Sunday, November 11) at 7 p.m., with the ceremony beginning at 9 p.m. ET. If you’re a cord cutter looking to live-stream the action, you’ll need access to one of the five NBCUniversal-owned channels that will air the event. They include Bravo, E!, Syfy, Universo, and USA Network.
These streaming services offer NBCUniversal channels and some are offering free promotions, so you can try them out and cancel if you’re not into it:
FuboTV: This low-cost service has a free trial going and offers NBCU channels in some areas. Find it here.
YouTube TV: The Google-owned live-TV service offers NBCU channels. You can find a full list here.
Hulu with Live TV: Hulu’s live TV service offers NBCU channels. Find it here.
Sling TV: This one from Dish Network offers NBCU channels. Find it here.
Bravo or USA online: You can stream live TV directly from these networks’ websites, but you’l need access to login credentials from a cable or satellite TV company, which is annoying. Find them here and here.
Behind-the-Scenes live streams: E! says it will air special behind-the-scenes coverage from the Barker Hanger on its YouTube and Twitter channels.
With alternative medicine getting more mainstream attention, it’s no surprise that one category is finally getting the Drybar treatment: acupuncture. The ancient practice of strategically inserting thin needles into the body is now found in a sleek, modern storefront in New York’s Flatiron district, alongside boutique fitness studios, matcha cafés, and the shopping district dubbed “athleisure row.”
At WTHN (pronounced “within”), clients can access an entire wellness treatment menu–albeit with binaural beats, chic vanity areas, and heated tables. When one walks through the front door, they are met with a proprietary scent of bergamot frankincense–a “healing oasis,” if you will.
“One of the things that we’re doing is making acupuncture more visible,” explains Shari Auth, a Chinese herbalist and holistic health practitioner who cofounded the startup with Michelle Larivee, a former investment banker who specialized in raising capital for hospitals and academic medical centers.
The duo tells Fast Company that while there’s no shortage of acupuncturists across the country, it’s a high-low experience, with few middle-range options. On one end, you’re often reliant on individual practitioners whose clinics lack a certain ambience; on the other, it’s often exorbitantly expensive in a luxury spa setting.
Much like Drybar, WTHN aims for an affordable luxury experience that feels both attainable and pampering. It also wants to make it convenient, with its seamless online booking and check-in system, and offer a decipherable list of treatment options that appeal to a wide audience.
“There wasn’t a trusted go-to source,” Larivee says of the current landscape. “There wasn’t a modern reimagination of the acupuncture experience.”
Many Americans are still not familiar with acupuncture’s benefits, partially due to Western medicine’s debate on its efficacy. In the last decade, however, it’s gained more prominence in some medical circles, especially internationally. The Veterans Health Administration increasingly depends on it to treat chronic pain (the number of VHA facilities offering acupuncture has increased from 42% to 88% in the last seven years). A recent study in Australia examined whether acupuncture could effectively be an alternative to opiates in the longer term.
Four years ago, Larivee knew little of the ancient tradition. It was only following a painful ski accident in which she dislocated vertebrae in her neck that her doctor recommended acupuncture. The results, she recalls, were life changing.
“Right away, I experienced pain relief,” says Larivee. “I was sleeping much better, feeling less stress, had a stronger immune system, and had fewer sick days.”
She also believes regular treatment helped her get pregnant and soon found herself trying to convince “everybody” she knew to give it a try. “But then I realized that there was no easy way for consumers to get started.”
WTHN breaks it down for newcomers; its cheeky menu lists a wide range of treatments, including those for anxiety, sore muscles, fatigue, chronic pain, insomnia, even indigestion. There are those that promise beauty benefits: “Face Time” promises to reduce wrinkles, calm inflammation, and boost collagen. “It relaxes your whole face for a more beautiful you,” reads the description.
“We are using accessible language to talk about Chinese medicine to demystify what we see as the top three questions people have about acupuncture,” says Auth, “which is, what it’s good for, how does it work, and does it hurt.”
The startup’s staff members have a minimum of three years of training and hold master’s degrees in Chinese medicine. Many also have doctorates from Eastern medicine institutions, the cofounders say, and complete WTHN’s own proprietary training.
It’s a seemingly smart time to invest in the wellness industry as interest in bettering our health hits an all-time high. The Global Wellness Institute estimates the wellness industry is now worth a whopping $4.2 trillion, representing 5.3% of global economic output.
“We are living in what is called the age of stress and anxiety. People are looking for natural remedies for pain,” stresses Auth, who earned her doctorate from the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. “When people get up off an acupuncture table, they feel relaxed and rejuvenated.”
Much like a spa, WTHN intends to entice customers to pop in for regular breaks of relaxation–not just when they’re in pain. Perhaps, the cofounders believe, it could be what the modern man or woman turns to when they need to reset. For that reason, WTHN offers a membership model meant to embody a lifestyle choice.
“We really want to bring Chinese medicine back to its roots where you do regular acupuncture appointments for self-care,” says Auth.
This brand of self-care isn’t exactly cheap, though it pales in comparison to a luxury spa facial. High-end New York acupuncturists might charge upwards of $150 a session, while no-frill Chinatown spaces can go for $50 or less. At WTHN, an intro session runs $65, and a monthly membership (one treatment a month) costs $75. One-off treatments are $85.
The cofounders see a variety of wellness-oriented millennials flocking to get pricked and prodded: young moms, working professionals, athletes, and basically anyone who needs a break. Those shouldn’t be hard to find, seeing how 3 out of 4 Americans report feeling stressed, and a Harris Poll found that 25% of millennials are willing to embrace alternative therapies.
Auth envisions acupuncture meshing with trends already woven into the mainstream, like spinning classes or juice bars: “This is kind of the last point in the trifecta where you’ve got nutrition, you’ve got fitness, and this is your self-care.”
Moving forward, WTHN plans to first add more locations in New York before taking the concept nationwide, possibly to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, and Washington, D.C., among others. One day, they say, Chinese medicine might just be as commonplace as yoga.
“We have a national vision and a very clear target about creating acupuncture for the next generation of wellness consumers,” says Larivee. “This is really that next natural frontier of wellness and recovery.”
Perfectionism is on the rise in younger generations, according to a study published in the Psychological Bulletin. Researchers from the University of Bath and York St. John University in the U.K. measured three types: 1.self-oriented, the irrational desire to be perfect. 2. socially prescribed, perceiving excessive expectations from others. 3.other-oriented, placing unrealistic standards on others.
Between 1989 and 2016 self-oriented perfectionism increased by 10%, socially prescribed increased by 33%, and other-oriented increased by 16%.
Seeking perfection can create paralysis that hurts productivity, says Morgenstern. “You procrastinate to distract yourself from a big scary task,” she says. “You can end up wasting so much time, beating yourself up later. That insecurity undermines your confidence.”
Another hidden cost of perfectionism is that it’s much harder to delegate. “No one can do it as perfectly as you can,” says Morgenstern. “Or you procrastinate and do things at the last minute so that it’s too late to delegate. You can’t build a team if you can’t delegate.”
Instead Morgenstern suggests selective perfectionism, choosing when a task is worth an effort that’s above and beyond and when it’s not.
“The biggest obstacle for the perfectionist is letting good enough be good enough,” she says. “A perfectionist doesn’t even know what it means to not be perfect. They don’t know what good enough is. It’s an all-or-nothing way of evaluating things. Work is amazing or a disaster.”
To get past the pursuit of perfect and find a balance, Morgenstern suggests using a technique called “Max, Mod, Min.” Before you start a task, write out the maximum you could do for that task, the minimum you could do, and the moderate–a happy medium of the two.
“This allows you to break black-and-white thinking,” she says. “You can find options to right-size an approach for any task or circumstance. Defining three levels of performance for a task builds edges that help you move forward.”
For example, if you have to write a report, define the max, the min, and the mod results. For the max, you could write a report that covers all angles, includes a variety of sources, the latest research, the history of the subject and more. The max approach might take hours, days, or even months to finish. To take a min approach, you could use the information you have, frame it into a template, and call it done. This level would take the least amount of time and effort. Finally, taking the mod approach would involve adding one or two elements above the minimum.
Deciding which approach is the best will depend on the project or task. In some cases it’s the maximum, others will be the minimum, and the majority will likely fall in the moderate category.
“The act of defining three levels of performance works a muscle that perfectionists need to learn to build,” says Morgenstern. “Knowing you always have options is amazingly liberating.”
Using the Approach as a Leader
Start the practice with yourself and then your team, Morgenstern suggests. Defining three levels helps managers and employees have a clear understanding of expectations.
“You don’t want an employee to deliver a 15-page PowerPoint when you wanted a memo,” says Morgenstern. “When you give someone an assignment, talk about the levels of performance, and choose the right fit. It gets you out of the mud, enabling you to see more than one really good way to get something done.”
Behold the finalists for the next symbol of Mexico City’s government. These are the best ideas from a controversial public contest led by the city’s new mayor-elect, Claudia Sheinbaum, who launched the contest in September with a first prize of 150,000 Mexican pesos–or $7,353.
The city’s current brand is only a few years old. The straightforward sans serif logotype set in a recognizable magenta hue was instituted by the city’s former mayor in 2016. It’s a simple but identifiable and effective brand still in its infancy.
Sure, it could stand to be improved. As Citylab explained in September, the brand has had some consistency problems when it comes to the way it’s been applied, but brand evolution is a complex process, one that requires both a strong rationale and time to execute. Throwing a brand in the trash–especially a strong one like CDMX, which the city reportedly spent $150 million rolling out–seems like a waste.
But beyond that, it’s a reminder of why crowdsourced design competitions can be so problematic. Designing a new brand identity requires months of work, spent into thinking, researching, and executing a vision according to a rationale. $7,353 won’t even begin to cover that process, which puts undue financial burden on designers and returns designs that tend to be underbaked. And the proof is in the pudding: The competition finalists are divided between minimal if uninspired options and overly busy cliches. What’s worse, many of these logos seem to be plagiarized, as the Mexican media has pointed out.
Some design advocacy groups have organized against speculative design work, but it endures. And public contests have been going on for years: As a precocious 10-year-old, I remember thinking Naranjito, the mascot for Spain’s 1982 World Cup, was awful–unsurprisingly, he was the result of a popular contest, too.
Cookies are omnipresent online, and while some browsers block trackers automatically, most of us are followed by invisible eyes everywhere we go on the internet. The option to clear your cache or your cookies is buried in settings, subtly deterring users from cleaning them out.
What if clearing those pesky cookies was as easy as physically wiping your computer screen? That’s the idea behind Augmented Mundanity OS. The project, by designer and recent graduate of the Design Academy Eindhoven Martina Huynh, envisions a new kind of operating system where mundane, everyday gestures are an interface for maintaining your privacy and security.
To make privacy tools easier to use, Huynh designed gestural interfaces to control them–like wiping your screen to wipe out trackers, spraying a room fragrance to automatically mask your online presence through a VPN, and lowering the blinds in your house to pull up the encrypted Tor browser to hide your digital activity.
“The digital space where we dwell, in forums or platforms, these have become part of our living spaces,” Huynh explains. “It’d be nice to connect [digital spaces] to tangible gestures we already know that are mundane and a part of our daily life.”
Right now, most of Augmented Mundanity OS is still a concept–though Huynh has a working prototype for the ability to wipe your screen to wipe away your cookies. But she thinks there’s an opportunity to make our physical living spaces part of a more intuitive interface for security-related digital actions, the same way other gestural interfaces have made aspects of the digital world more convenient to access or navigate.
Huynh sees these concepts as interventions that give the user more power over their digital lives. “The interface shows what you can do and what you’re not allowed to do–if there’s only one button, that’s the only path you can take,” Huynh says. “On a more broader level I see this as a humble start to how we can design interfaces that are different and empower the user in the digital space.”
Huynh is currently looking for technical collaborators to help her bring some of these ideas to life, including the idea that you could flick pop-up ads away with your finger, or clean out all your personal data by using special soap when you wash your hands.
In a world where all privacy settings are difficult to access and not at all user-friendly, Augmented Mundanity points to an alternative way of interacting with computers in physical space. And as data privacy becomes more and more important, controlling it should be as easy as a wipe.
If you’re a hiring manager or recruiter, chances are you’re faced with a difficult decision when you’re down to your final few candidates for a job. Perhaps you’ve found a winner, but you’d like to keep other interviewees in mind for future job openings or freelance work. Or maybe you just dread penning rejection letters and would like to offer constructive feedback.
“In our office, we all kind of joke about how recruiting and making hires is so much like dating,” says Sydney Hayes, marketing lead at Betts Recruiting. “You might have a couple of really great ‘dates’ with people—and really great conversations—but sometimes you can’t set your finger on what it is that’s not the best fit.” Whether the issue is experience or culture fit, here are some tips for crafting a rejection that can be mutually beneficial.
Pick up the phone
Samantha Wallace, the market lead of the tech practice at recruiting firm Korn Ferry, recommends always picking up the phone—or, depending on the position and interview process, even making time for an in-person meeting. “It should be a conversation,” she says. “I don’t think I would ever lead with an email rejection, particularly if they’ve come in and invested time.” (If you try calling and don’t hear back, she says, email is a fair next step.)
In other words: The rejection should measure up to the interview process itself. Being lazy when rejecting candidates affects companies, too, if they want to maintain a good name and attract top talent. (One of the worst things a hiring manager or recruiter can do is to not tell a candidate—not even via email—that someone else got the job.) “If you get a generic ‘thanks, no thanks’ email back, it doesn’t feel like the investment of time was taken seriously,” Wallace says. “The company wasn’t as thoughtful as the individual was.”
A rejection that happens over the phone is usually more of a “deep breath conversation,” according to Wallace—though she says it’s not very common that candidates prolong such a call. Still, a hiring manager or recruiter should be prepared to share feedback and answer questions.
Offer specific feedback
Wallace says that if a candidate is in the final group—say, as the second or third runner-up—you should try to “reframe” a rejection to acknowledge how far they made it in the interview process. “I don’t think [that rejection] is, ‘Sorry you didn’t get the job,’ she says. “I think it’s, ‘Congratulations on making it into a really competitive final group.'”
It’s important to share why you chose one candidate over another, even in cases where it feels more difficult to articulate, and the feedback should be tailored to each job candidate. “It’s a coaching moment as well as an information-sharing moment,” Wallace says, noting that you should use language that seems appropriate for the candidate based on your interactions with them. Hayes suggests highlighting a candidate’s strengths and saying something like: “We’re looking for someone who has more strength in this area, but that being said, we think you can be a valuable asset for the team.”
If you’re keen on considering the applicant for future job openings or freelance work, make that clear. Hayes recommends telling particularly qualified candidates that you’d like to reconnect when you’re hiring again a few months down the road or might have other opportunities for them.
Don’t give false hope
That said, employers shouldn’t “dangle a false carrot of hope,” Wallace says. Don’t tell an applicant that you’d like to stay in touch if there won’t be another opportunity for them anytime soon—or if you don’t plan on following up.
But if you genuinely want to keep the applicant in mind for future opportunities, Hayes says, you need to maintain the relationship and set expectations around when you might have something for them. Hayes usually sets a reminder on her calendar to reach out to a candidate a few weeks (or months) later for a coffee, and she makes sure that happens within the timeframe she quoted.
“Be as genuine and real and transparent as you can,” she says. “Nobody likes to feel like a transaction.”
For nearly four years, my job has mainly been to ride around in cars with strange men. Sometimes women. More specifically, as a technology ethnographer I’ve taken hundreds of ride-hail trips in more than 25 cities, observing and speaking with drivers at work. Online, I spent countless hours in driver forums where drivers post screenshots and comments about wage incentives, behavioral expectations, passenger ploys, deactivation threats, and communications from their algorithmic managers.
What I learned is that Uber brings the culture of Silicon Valley to the world of work, from experimenting with driver pay through up-front pricing to algorithmic herding tools, like surge pricing. Across technology platforms we use as consumers, algorithms are often described as neutral, objective, and benevolent, but anyone who’s had a boss knows that a manager isn’t exactly “neutral,” and neither is technology. How drivers are affected by the practices and rhetoric of Silicon Valley reveals more about how consumers of technology services are treated, too.
Uberland, I discovered, is an array of contrasts. Some drivers sign up because they need extra cash on the side; others do it as their full-time job. Many resort to it as a stopgap solution when businesses fail or unemployment strikes; others take up ride-hail work for the fun of it. Some are trying it out to pad their savings; others have little choice, putting in 14-hour days just to feed their families.
Some told me that they do it simply to get out of the house and experience a sense of human connection; others are desperate to ﬁnd a way out of Uber. Former taxi drivers, chauffeurs, and truck drivers are part of the Uber workforce, but others have no primary occupational identity as drivers, even as they drive for both Uber and Lyft. Their stories are all too often tales of folks on the margins, of workers in transition, of people who are part of a new wave of social progress that we are still trying to comprehend. Uber drivers frequently make the headlines as part of larger societal discussions about the future of work, and as part of a growing nervousness that technological advancement threatens to automate all of us out of jobs.
But beyond this simplistic narrative, after all those rides, I’ve found that drivers are barely treated as workers at all. Given that Uber treats its workers as “consumers” of “algorithmic technology,” and promotes them as self-employed entrepreneurs, a thorny, uncharted, and uncomfortable question must be answered: If you use an app to go to work, should society consider you a consumer, an entrepreneur, or a worker?
Because Uber drivers are classiﬁed as independent contractors, not as employees, they do not beneﬁt from most workplace discrimination protections. In this way, the rating system provides one of the clearest signals that Uber has taken on the role of managing drivers as workers. The combination of worker and consumer practices in Uber’s model creates a blurred distinction between these two categories that we think of as separate.
The company’s ambiguity on this question challenges regulatory bodies in the countries where Uber operates to manage not only Uber’s claims that it is a technology company, rather than a taxi company, but also its relationship to its drivers. In practice, drivers are hardly “entrepreneurs” or true partners with Uber, even though the company calls them “Uber Driver-Partners”; drivers are not suspended or ﬁred, they are “deactivated.”
But when drivers challenged their classification as independent contractors, rather than as employees, Uber’s lawyers argued that drivers are customers of Uber’s technology, just like passengers. If we follow this logic to its natural conclusion, the company doesn’t have any worker problems, despite mounting lawsuits, protests, and conflicts with drivers across the country.
And yet, this miscategorization has deep roots within Uber’s claims about the employment relationship it has with its drivers. Regulators may support that blurring by using language consistent with Uber’s own: In 2016, the Federal Trade Commission brought legal action against Uber on the basis that it had misled drivers about their earnings, but the FTC also referred to Uber drivers as “entrepreneurial consumers.” There is a real argument to be made that Uber provides employment to its drivers, but Uber’s “consumer” spin provides a simple way out for the company. (Law professor Ryan Calo and I explored how consumer protection law could be used to protect people who work for an app, such as by reframing issues like wage theft under labor law as an unfair and deceptive consumer practice.)
I interviewed Koﬁ in the fall of 2017. He drives for Uber and Lyft in Washington, D.C., and he was formerly an assistant attorney for the government in his country of origin, Ethiopia. He responded to the provocation that drivers are actually consumers by accusing ride-hail companies of operating in bad faith. “The motive is to exclude the drivers from being in a worker or an employer relationship, or something like that,” he told me. “I will take it as more than a technology.”
By claiming to operate in a world of technology consumption rather than in a world of labor, Uber excuses itself from a series of obligations that it ﬁnds inconvenient. Koﬁ also objected to the idea that drivers have full autonomy to make entrepreneurial decisions; he cited the disciplinary actions that ride-hail platforms take against drivers as evidence of the invisible authority they lord over their drivers (even while the company claims not to be an employer).
Koﬁ’s criticisms highlight the fact that Uber confuses categories such as innovation and lawlessness, work and consumption, algorithms and managers, neutrality and control, and sharing and employment. It does so with practical insistence on questionable facts, spinning tales about its business that directly contradict its actual operations. And the story doesn’t stop when the ride ends: Uber’s dealings with its drivers also reveal a much larger narrative about how technology is destabilizing and redeﬁning relationships across society. By muddying the bright red lines that deﬁne traditionally distinct roles, like those of worker, entrepreneur, and consumer, Uber rewrites the rules of work surrounding algorithmic technology.
As a technology company in the ride-hail business, Uber has an employment model that is changing the nature of work. The company promised to leverage its technology to provide mass entrepreneurship to independent workers. But at Uber, algorithms manage how much drivers are paid, where and when they work, and the eligibility requirements for their employment.
The power of this algorithmic management is obscured from view, hidden within the black box of the app’s design. While speaking with hundreds of drivers, culling thousands of forum posts online, and working together with scholars across disciplines to suss out the implications of what I’ve observed, I’ve found that despite the rhetoric, the technology practices Uber implements (such as algorithms) signiﬁcantly shape and control how drivers behave at work.
Uber is more than just a ride-hail company. Like other Silicon Valley companies with global aspirations, such as Google or Facebook, Uber crafts public policy initiatives to brand its business operations with positive social contributions to society. Uber has actively enhanced its brand on the public stage by, for example, supporting criminal justice reform or allying with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
But in the alliances Uber makes between competing stakeholders to accomplish its goals, what emerges is often a form of doublespeak. On the one hand, Uber tells cities that it creates the equivalent of full-time jobs, and on the other hand it argues that drivers are ineligible for many of the employment rights associated with full-time work, such as minimum wage. In the vast gap between those ideas, drivers, many of whom are just trying to pay the bills, have become implicated in a larger battle over the future of work.
We often hear that the most important thing in life, and particularly in our careers, is to be true to ourselves. Although few have bothered explaining what this actually means, this advice highlights a number of related popular ideas, such as:
Don’t worry so much about what other people think of you.
If you think you are great, you probably are.
Just be yourself. Spending too much time or energy thinking about what others expect of you leads to mindless conformity.
Follow your intuition. It’s likely a better moral compass than any other, socially fabricated, cultural rule.
This list of examples could go on, but you get the picture. Authenticity, in its purest form, celebrates the uncensored expression of our natural self. Be yourself and all your problems will go away. You’ll be happier and more successful in whatever you do. In contrast, if you adjust your behaviors to fit what others want, you will betray your own values and fail to stand out from the crowd.
Although there’s an unquestionable appeal to the idea that success may not require any social inhibitions, and that others will celebrate and respect the unfiltered and uninhibited version of ourselves, reality couldn’t be more different.
In fact, large-scale scientific studies show that people who are more likely to enjoy higher levels of psychological well-being, interpersonal effectiveness, and career success (including being effective leaders) are actually strong impression managers. In other words, they pay a lot of attention to how others perceive them and successfully adjust their behavior to create a favorable reputation with others. That’s what academic psychologists call “emotionally intelligent” people.
In comparison, people who fail to self-censor or control their behaviors in social situations by conforming to the “just be yourself” rule are more likely to be psychopathic, according to science. And while some of those people are able to get away with it and be perceived as charismatic and likable by others, those impressions are generally short-lived.
Being true to your values may not be advantageous to others. For example, many brutal dictators and despotic rulers such as Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, were arguably true to their values and principles, yet this type of psychological authenticity came at the expense of millions of people. Although extreme, it’s easy to see that some values are better than others, and there’s little point in rewarding people for being true to their values when they have detrimental consequences for others.
This is why any civilized society expects citizens to exercise restraint and self-control in the interests of the collective. From obeying traffic rules to standing in line, paying taxes, and keeping public spaces clean, all prosocial acts require a certain degree of impulse control and the realization that one’s own interests are actually secondary to the interests of others.
The public glorification of nonconformists and disruptors can only be justified by acknowledging that no system or society can function unless the majority of individuals obey and follow rules. That, by definition, relegates disruptors to the minority.
The fact that this sounds controversial, if not heretic, is a testimony to the subliminal power of those norms, and our own belief that we are more unique and special than others, and that others may somehow value our uniqueness more than they actually do.
There are no doubt some people who like you for who you really are, in the sense that they have learned to tolerate–maybe even love–the most unfiltered and uncensored version of you. But I would guess that they are just a few individuals. For the vast majority of people who interact with you, and especially those in your professional life, it’s better to disguise your natural self, at least to begin with. Outside your intimate circle of family and friends, you have to earn the right to be yourself–and some people would still prefer that you don’t.
That said, there are clearly some benefits to seeming authentic in the eyes of others, regardless of whether you actually are or not. This other type of authenticity is far more important than its self-centered version. As long as you behave in socially desirable ways, or display culturally valued traits, it’s a bonus to also be seen as genuine or spontaneous.
Here’s the bottom line: You are generally better off coming across as likable, which will generally require some effort, restraint, and attention to what others expect and want to see. Seeming authentic in the process is the cherry on top of the cake, but it requires a fair amount of faking.
Being pro-environment was a winning strategy for this country’s mayors.
Twelve mayors in America’s 100 largest cities faced re-election battles during the 2018 midterms, and mayors–both Democrats and Republicans–who followed pro-environmental policies were rewarded. All six mayors who had demonstrated their commitment to the environment by signing the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy–including Stephen Adler of Austin, Greg Fischer of Louisville, Kentucky, and Libby Schaff of Oakland, California–won re-election. The other big city mayors in re-election battles weren’t so fortunate–two won, two lost, and two are facing runoffs.
Of course, voters consider many issues when they cast their ballot. It’s unlikely that the environment was the deciding issue in these races. However, mayors that prioritize the environment seem to be making changes in their cities that please constituents. The positive election results in 2018 were not an anomaly–all 15 mayors who signed the covenant and sought re-election in the last two years have been victorious at the ballot box, usually by large margins.
Mayors with pro-environmental agendas aren’t just popular. I believe they are an important part of the answer to the global challenge of climate change.
As a scholar of civil society and environmental policy–this is just one of the positive signs I see not just in American cities, but around the world.
Climate change is urgent
A month before the election, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its latest report about the risks associated with climate change. The news was bad. Our planet is now expected to reach a 1.5 degrees Celsius increase in average global temperatures as early as 2030. One billion people will regularly endure conditions of extreme heat. Sea levels will rise, exposing between 31 and 69 million people to flooding. Seventy to 90% of coral reefs will die. Fishery catches will decline by 1.5 million tons. And that is if we are lucky and keep the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which will not be easy.
As my colleague Gary Yohe reflected in a recent New York Timesarticle, “2 degrees is aspirational and 1.5 degrees is ridiculously aspirational.” At exactly a time when we need to become more ambitious in our efforts to tackle this global problem, the United States has pulled out of the Paris agreement and is dismantling many of its clean energy and other climate policies at home. One of my students recently expressed a common feeling of helplessness: “It makes me wonder if the best thing I can do is just go out in the backyard and compost myself.”
So, I’d like to say: There is hope. While the president of the United States may not be making much progress, many other people are. The election of pro-environment mayors and governors is one excellent sign.
Cities take the lead
A number of U.S. cities have gained global reputations for their innovative responses to the challenge of climate change.
San Francisco, which reduced its carbon emissions by 30% between 1990 and 2016, cemented its global leadership position by hosting the 2018 Climate Action Summit this past September, which gathered 4,500 leaders from local governments, nongovernmental organizations, and business together to address climate change. The summit resulted in numerous corporate and city commitments to become carbon neutral, as well as trillions of dollars of investment in climate action.
New York City reduced its emissions by 15% between 2005 and 2015. Its residents have a carbon footprint that it only one-third that of the average American. The mayor of the financial capital of the United States has also become a champion of oil divestment.
As in the U.S., global cities are also making significant progress on climate change. Tokyo reduced its energy consumption more than 20% between 2000 and 2015, with the industrial and transportation sectors making astounding 41% and 42% reduction, respectively. By 2015, the city of London had reduced its emissions by 25% since 1990, and 33% since peak emissions in 2000.
These cities are not waiting for presidents and prime ministers to act, they’re making changes right now that are improving the lives of the tens of millions of their own residents by improving air quality, reducing flooding risk, and expanding green space, all while helping to bend the global emissions curve downward.
Mary Alice Haddad is a professor at Wesleyan University. This post originally appeared on the Conversation.
The idea of smart clothing is nice, but most people don’t want to wear a T-shirt that tracks your health if that means carrying a heavy battery. It’s simply not practical for everyday use–for instance, how do you clean the garment?–which is one of the reasons smart clothing probably has not caught on. Fortunately scientists may have found a solution.
The method is a special sewing technique that uses vapor-coated conductive threads with a polymer film to embroider a flexible mesh of electrodes on a textile, allowing it to store enough energy to power assorted electronics, from temperature sensors and motion trackers to haptic feedback devices. In a press release, Andrew claims that the method can be “scaled up and remain cost-effective” for mass production.
The new technology–which is described in the latest issue of the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces–could enable a smart garment to monitor your vitals or guide you through a city using gentle haptic taps. The research team is working with the university’s Amherst Institute for Applied Life Sciences’s Personalized Health Monitoring Center to make a garment that can track a patient’s gait and joint movements throughout an entire day and provide important data on injuries and illnesses.
After many years of waiting, it seems that we are nearing the point where people will be able to use smart clothing on a daily basis–and not feel like they’re experimenting with the future.
“The best ideas come from people who don’t think like everybody else,” says Wendy Brundige, vice president of global video for CNN Digital. “So, it’s been really important to me to build a team of people who represent different kinds of backgrounds, who’ve had different kinds of experiences.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by four other women in leadership at the network when they talked to Fast Company in the run-up to covering the midterm elections, which had an unprecedented number of female candidates at the federal, state, and local levels.
Election coverage itself is just a flash in the news pan for these women who are collectively responsible for the creation and promotion of a massive amount of video reporting. CNN is just behind YouTube, Facebook, Netflix, and ESPN, yet still reaches over 2.2 billion people across the globe every month. The network asserts that they experience over 500 million starts a day, which they claim is more than any other news brand. Doing this work is a global staff of 660. Although they weren’t able to disclose actual specifics of the breakdown, CNN Digital currently has more women than men on staff.
This is significant. The news business has long suffered from a lack of female representation. Women make up just 32% of U.S. newsrooms (and women of color represent just 7.95% of U.S. print newsroom staff, 6.2% of local radio staff, and 12.6% of local TV news staff), while men get 62% of bylines and other credits in print, online, TV, and wire news, according to the most recent Status of Women in the U.S. Media study. The media industry has also faced criticism for a lack of racial diversity. Data from a 2016 survey by the American Society of News Editors found that underrepresented minorities represent less than 16.94% of newsroom personnel at traditional print and online news publications overall. CNN declined to disclose the racial and ethnic breakdown of its news staff.
In an industry that reaches people of all genders, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and is supposed to prize objectivity, lack of diversity is a potentially huge stumbling block.
Cullen Daly, executive producer for CNN Digital Productions, says there are a lot of different factors that determine what gets covered. Some of it is based on the calendar, other times it’s news that’s bubbling at the moment, but deserves a more comprehensive look. “I’d say a lot of it has to do with innovation,” Daly says, “stories that we think could be told in new and different ways.” Chris James, who did the story on the trade war, told it through a different lens, she says. “He told it through what’s going to happen to people in the middle of the country.”
Brundige takes a somewhat controversial stance when she says she believes that for too long, people have thought about diversity as mostly about race. While experts like Scott Page, the author of The Diversity Bonus, argues in favor of cognitive diversity (which occurs naturally among people of different backgrounds, regardless of race, gender, or other factors), it wasn’t that long ago that Apple’s former vice president of diversity and inclusion Denise Young Smith came under fire for stating that a room of “12 white, blue-eyed, blonde men” could be diverse.
“We have a lot of racial diversity in particular in my team in New York,” Brundige asserts, “but it’s most important to me to have geographic diversity and not just have a bunch of people who grew up in the Northeast and went to Ivy League schools.” Still, she’s quick to add that there’s room for improvement.
Taking another tack, S. Mitra Kalita, the senior vice president for news, opinion, and programming for CNN Digital, observes that sometimes differences can illuminate common ground, too. She grew up in northeast India. “It’s a very rural region, but Wendy’s family and my family both had cows,” Kalita says. “We look nothing alike, and you would never put the girl from Kentucky next to the girl from Assam, and yet our families are actually very surprisingly similar.”
The mission of CNN Digital, according to Kalita, is to find some common factor with your audience. “So, I don’t think your background can be divorced from that process of storytelling,” she says. As the mother of two, Kalita recalls how she felt when Brundige brought a story idea about a woman in Chicago who was on a quest to find out how her son died because he was left with marks all over his body. It was called “Beneath the Skin,” says Kalita, and remembers Brundige talking about the period between the death and the funeral and what that’s like for a mother. “That just haunted me for days,” she confesses. “I would argue that she probably had a similar reaction,” says Kalita, noting that the creators of the piece were also women. “So on projects like that, it’s wonderful to be able to bring yourself to the work, and have it enhance the work,” she says.
For Courtney Coupe, the president of content and executive producer at Great Big Story, who’s been with the company since its launch three years ago, it’s also become critical to find stories that resonate with the audience by way of common ground.
The thread that runs through the over 2,000 stories from over 100 countries is emotion. “We are not sugarcoating reality,” she says, “and I don’t think we’re trying to say that the world is perfect. We recognize that it’s not. But we really are trying to also recognize that flowers have the ability to grow out of cracks in the sidewalk.”
Although it’s not straight news, Coupe insists that the untold, underrepresented, unexpected stories are very much intended to show the audience something they’ve never seen to spark hope, curiosity, and wonder. “We really want to create deep connections with our audience, and so making them feel something, introducing them to characters who feel very passionately about their own lives,” she asserts. “We want to go beyond just the facts, the who, the what, and really dig into the why.” So far, that’s meant cutting across geographic, racial, cultural, and language barriers. “Some of our best performing content is stories that are not in our own backyard,” she says.
Because of the directive to find such diverse stories from around the world, Coupe says it’s necessary to have a team that has different backgrounds, professionally, personally, culturally, etc. “We trend higher on staff in women than men, which is a rarity in this industry,” she says.
Having that many women decision makers plays out in a variety of ways across the network. “I think there’s also an inherent support that we have for each other, to speak up, to back each other up, to understand,” says Kalita. As the relentless news cycle continues, she asks, “Are we taking care of ourselves? How are we taking care of our staff?” noting that she doesn’t believe that those are questions that are not only pertinent to women. “But I do think that they are questions that we try to address at CNN all the time.”
As Ashley Codianni, executive producer of social and emerging media at CNN Worldwide, sees it, the arsenal of support among female staff has offered some important lessons over the four years she’s been with the company. “I think that the biggest thing that I learned is that I can really push boundaries in traditional storytelling, and I can really experiment on new platforms and in a new way,” she says. “I have been in places previously that have always supported that innovation, of course, but it’s been really special here,” she says. “And I think that sets us apart.”
Over the weekend, as the full force of the Republican party and its mediaarm used the words “voter fraud” to describe procedural ballot-counting in Florida, a newly elected GOP congressman went on Saturday Night Live to ask: Why can’t we all just get along?
Dan Crenshaw, a retired lieutenant commander-turned-Texas politician, found himself in 30 Rockefeller Plaza by way of an ill-advised joke. On the previous week’s SNL, during a Weekend Update segment on the midterms, sentient tattoo shop menu Pete Davidson mused that Crenshaw’s eyepatch makes him look like “a hit man from a porno movie.” It’s a funny description for a handsome eyepatch-haver, but in this case, Davidson was applying it to a guy who lost his eye from an IED during his third tour in Afghanistan. Not a good look, as they say. Many on both sides of the aisle demanded Davidson apologize to Crenshaw, and because SNL now regularly lets Davidson use the show as his LiveJournal, he ended up doing so on-air. That’s when things got weird.
Let’s start with the apology itself. Why do we hold Pete Davidson up to standards that we no longer hold the president to? Why aren’t all the organizations who were so steamed about Davidson insulting a war hero still upset that the actual pesident insulted a war hero? Why do we no longer talk about the time he insulted a disabled reporter? Why do we still pretend the norms that Trump has set alight apply to everyone else? Donald Trump’s whole thing is that he never apologizes, and somehow everyone just accepts it–even while constantly demanding apologies when relatively innocuous public figures pop off at the mouth.
Should Davidson have apologized? Maybe. If he felt a special kind of shame at having mocked an injured war hero, absolutely he should have apologized. Should the show have used his apology as a chance to promote the very concept of bipartisanship?
Of course, that’s exactly what happened.
“If any good came of this, it’s that for one day finally the Left and the Right came together to agree on something,” Davidson says at one point. “That I’m a dick.”
If only that was as far as the Kumbaya factor went! Instead, Davidson next welcomed Crenshaw himself. This appearance from the newly most visible member of the GOP’s class of ’18 was something of a surprise. Previously, Crenshaw had said he didn’t want an apology from Davidson because it would be “hollow and empty.” It was a move designed to make Davidson look even more like a dick, and it arguably worked.
Crenshaw’s appearance begins smoothly enough. With maximal truth-in-jest, he jokes, “Thanks for making a Republican look good.”
It was at this point that I screamed at my TV for the bit to end here, on what would surely be the high note. Obviously, it did not. After getting in a few zingers about Davidson’s appearance, the Congressman-elect then goes on to talk about the thing 2018 Republicans know most about: Unity.
“There’s a lot of lessons to learn here. Not just that Americans on the Left and Right can still agree on some things, but also this: that Americans can forgive one another,” he begins.
Talk about hollow and empty. Yes, if only the Right, which has actively tried to take away Americans’ healthcare, gave a tax cut for the 1% after years of pearl-clutching over the deficit, pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords, allowed white nationalism to flourish, turned a blind eye toward all the criminality in the president’s inner circle as though it didn’t implicate him as well, and cheered his war against accuracy in media–if only the Right could find it in their hearts to forgive the Left!
“We can remember what brings us together as a country and still see the good in each other,” Crenshaw continues. “This is Veterans Day Weekend, which means that it’s a good time for every American to connect with a veteran. Maybe say ‘Thanks for your service.'”
He goes on for a full minute after that with specifics about how America should engage with its troops. In a different historical moment, it would be an effective, classy message for Veterans Day. But unfortunately, we’re not in another moment. We’re in this moment–the one where the president has just deployed thousands of troops against an imaginary invasion in what was transparently a political stunt for the midterms, and Republicans do not seem to mind.
I just did several keyword searches on Google to find out what Dan Crenshaw thinks of the president using troops as human props, and turned up nothing. Why? Because Crenshaw may have once been a lieutenant commander for American forces, but he is now a foot soldier for the party that has forcefully ruled America for two years. It’s nice that he has publicly declared that he’s in favor of bipartisanship now, but it’s far too late for that.
Bipartisanship sounds nice. Republicans and Democrats putting asides their differences to make government happen? Sign me up! Certain sections of the media especially like the idea because it adds to the illusion of objectivity. But anyone who has lived through the past two years and thinks that bipartisanship is even a remote possibility right now is either lying to you or being hopelessly naive.
Saturday Night Live has documented the encroaching fascism of our current administration on a weekly basis, sometimes wringing cathartic laughs out of it. For this show to provide an enormous pop culture platform for a congressional Republican to both-sides this moment–just because one of their own made a tasteless joke–feels like a dereliction of duty.
While researching the way people present themselves online, furniture designer Anna Aagaard Jensen began studying videos of male and female guests on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon by watching them in slow motion. She noticed something odd.
“I saw there was a big gap in how the man was sitting and how the woman was sitting,” Jensen says. “By slowing down the movement, it looked incredibly awkward. [The female guest] was so afraid when she sat down that she was going to do something wrong.”
Jensen was fascinated by the difference between how men and women sit in public space, which led her to create a series of chairs that force the sitter to open her legs and manspread.
Jensen sculpted each of the four chairs she has created so far into exaggerated female shapes using Styrofoam. Then she layered the structures with glass fiber and acrylic resin. She dyed the resin with makeup, giving the chairs a peachy, mottled appearance.
When she displayed the chairs, which she created while studying at the Design Academy Eindhoven, at Dutch Design Week this fall, Jensen only allowed women to sit on them. The response?
“First of all, [women] don’t want to go on [the chairs],” she recalls. “They say, ‘I can’t sit here and spread my legs.’ I ask them, ‘Why not?’ They think about it and say, ‘Okay, I’m going to do it.’ And they feel uncomfortable.”
Why? Even though the position itself is comfortable–after all, that’s why men do it–women are socialized to think they shouldn’t sit that way in public. “In our minds, we think, ‘I’m spreading my legs, people are looking at me, it’s sexual,'” Jensen says. “The simple fact that you want to sit down in public, and you feel unsafe and you have to shrink yourself down [to do so]? I hate it so much.”
Jensen hopes that her chairs help women understand the relationship between their bodies and social norms, and take advantage of the power that comes with taking up space. She wants to install the chairs in museums or places that encourage people to sit on them so more women can have that experience of opening up.
Almost 100 students walked out of class at Brooklyn’s Secondary School for Journalism to protest the school’s use of Summit Learning.
The controversial educational system is backed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the philanthropic organization started by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. Students said the program, designed to deliver individualized learning, kept them tied to computer screens for hours each day, the New York Post reports.
Wi-Fi issues and system crashes also made the system–built with assistance from Facebook engineers–frustrating to use, and parents expressed concern about how student data would be used. The school is eliminating the program for 11th and 12th grade, according to the report.
It’s not the only school to back away from using Summit Learning: Other schools have ended use of the program amid concerns about curriculum content and data use, EdSurge reported last year.
With Mars in our grasp comes the concern over whether humans can responsibly populate and harness its resources–or continue to repeat our mistakes if we don’t resolve entrenched conflicts.
The warning comes from season two of National Geographic Channel’s Mars.Presented in a hybrid scripted/documentary form, the series examines how the clashing goals between government-sponsored science and private enterprise could play out in space if they aren’t first resolved on Earth. Despite ubiquitous advancements brought on by the early space industry, it’s become a volatile topic today given the uproar over corporate greed and deregulation exacerbating climate change and environmental degradation.
“Commercial interests come up against scientific interests all the time,” says co-executive producer Stephen Petranek, author of How We’ll Live on Mars, which inspired the series. “We’re doing this show now, so people can have this discussion and start to figure out how we are going to act differently on Mars than we’ve acted on Earth.”
Petranek–who appears in Mars’s documentary segments alongside the others in this article–is a two-time TED speaker, and former editor-in-chief at Discover magazine and the Washington Post Magazine, and senior science editor at Life magazine. How We’ll Live on Mars was originally intended as a collaboration with Elon Musk. When an overwhelming work schedule forced Musk to drop out, the book became one of the first TED hardcovers in partnership with Simon & Schuster. (Musk also appears in the series.)
Like the first season, season two juxtaposes a fictionalized drama unfolding in the near future with current commentary from real-life scientists, historians, and astronauts. Produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer and overseen by showrunner Dee Johnson, the narrative picks up in 2042, nine years after a skeleton scientist crew established a Martian base camp, now a 200-person research colony, when a private water mining enterprise threatens the Martian ecology that the scientists are trying to study and terraform.
“So where season one looked at ‘will Mars kill the humans who go there?’ season two is, ‘will the humans kill Mars?'” says oil and energy analyst Antonia Juhasz, author of The Tyranny of Oil. “What’s so crucial about the show and having this discussion that the show brings up, is that this process is moving forward right now.”
The parallels with our present day drive home the urgency of the problem, she says. Will extracting water for Mars inhabitants “follow the same model we’ve used on Earth for resource extraction, one that has led to making the planet almost uninhabitable for the majority of people, looking particularly at fossil fuel extraction? Or are we going to learn the lessons that have gone wrong on Earth and develop the resources on Mars in a manner that respects not only the planet, but the ability of humans to live there?”
Who Owns Space?
In 1967, the United Nations laid out the first of five treaties outlining peaceful uses of outer space and forming the core of space law. However, with space commercialization proceeding much faster than expected, updated and more exacting rules are needed. Diversified and conflicting concerns make international consensus difficult, putting the onus on individual nations to self-regulate–with the requisite lobbying from industry.
“We have a treaty from 1967 that just basically says no one can own anything outside of Earth orbit,” says Petranek. “But if people invest money in Mars, they’re going to want to take ownership of something. We’re just starting to feel all of this out.”
Looking to the future, Mars would offer a particular alluring base from which to mine the wealth of metals–an estimated $80 quadrillion–residing in the asteroid belt, according to Petranek’s book. Mars is not only closer than Earth to the asteroid belt, but offers a lighter (and therefore, less expensive) gravity from which to launch. The minerals would support a sustainable economy on Mars.
With Congress now weighing two bills on asteroid and science resources, corporations are looking to influence the laws of the future.
“Those rules are entirely deregulatory, having the U.S. government to play the role of promoting resource extraction as we move to asteroids and Mars,” says Juhasz. “An attempt to build the legal structure is being driven by corporations. We hope the show will bring in the broader public to say we need a voice in this. How do we set up a system as we move into space, where there is a regulatory regime that looks at protecting what’s potentially found at Mars and making it a place that continues to sustain our life when we’re there, and not do what we did to this planet, which is break it so that it can’t sustain our life.”
How to prevent the same mistakes
Space shuttle astronaut Mae Jemison, who helped train the cast in preparation for season one, believes narratives like Mars can offer a better understanding of the problem. “Sometimes we can see things more clearly if we imagine them in the future, somewhere else,” she says. “Yes, there are the bills going in place in terms of space, but there’s a lot of things happening here on this planet that we have to reflect on regarding commercialization, and how the very science and the facts that we know are incorporated into those decisions, right now.”
How we successfully transition from exploring to colonizing and commercializing Mars will depend on an adaptive leadership. The hostile environment of space and Mars demands a hierarchical approach that can flatten as colonies mature into sustainable systems.
“Without policies or laws that say who owns what, there has to be good leadership, because both have to exist in a way that’s harmonious or everyone falters–or dies,” says shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin.
“You have to act in a way that’s systematic, taking control, and being able to shut other things down to solve a problem,” he says. “On a spaceship or space station, the commander is able to trump what everyone else says. When I was in the space station, I was in charge of moving the robotic arm and could tell anyone, ‘This is what you need to do to support me, or go away because you’re not helping me.'”
“When you get to a place where the criticality of decision making doesn’t cause people to die, then you can go horizontal [toward fewer management layers],” he adds. “There’s a tipping point between the two, based on the criticality of what people are doing.”
The Mars documentary participants are equally, if not more good-naturedly, split as to humankind’s ability to learn from its mistakes.
“We’re doomed,” says historian Susan Wise Bauer, author of The History of the World series. “We’ll keep repeating the same mistakes, they’ll just look different. The problem with Mars colonization, and the conflict between the scientific and commercial enterprises, is the scientific community needs the commercial side. There’s no way we can afford pure research. Those doing so have sponsorships from drug companies, universities, etc. Mars won’t be any different. It’s going to have the same entanglements, the same profit mongering at work, and people compromising themselves without even knowing it.”
The Martian author Andy Weir is more optimistic, at least in the sense that the quest for financial gain can lead to good.
“The relentless pursuit of profit causes companies to sink huge amounts of money into the research,” he says. “If there was a way to turn a profit going to Mars, then companies would spend billions of dollars figuring out how to get to Mars cheaply, which would, in turn, enable people to get to Mars. The best analogy I can come up with is the much-maligned pharma industry. Yeah, they’re in it to make a buck, but the relentless pursuit of that dollar is creating a lot of medications for people.”
Petranek says the harsh Martian environment may not offer a choice between commercial and scientific priorities. “We’re going to be a lot smarter on Mars than we have been on Earth, because survival depends on it,” he says. “You can’t just have commercial interests pursuing purely commercial interests the way we allow on Earth. When you are forced to recycle everything, it completely changes the attitude of how people have to cooperate with each other, whether they’re scientists or industry barons.”
Season Two of Mars premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel.
Last month, the United Nations released its most alarming climate report yet. The report warns that drastic action to limit carbon pollution will be required if the world is to avert trillions of dollars in damage and lost lives by 2040, and that many of the costs of climate change are already being felt.
Insurers, utilities, and government agencies have borne some of those costs—for instance, in the wake of hurricanes and wildfires—but individuals have also borne them directly, with disproportionate burdens on the poor, people of color, and women.
The good news is that people have other options when politics is broken. In communities across the U.S., people whose health and safety are threatened by fossil fuel infrastructure—not in the future, but now—are increasingly turning to nonviolent civil disobedience to make their voices heard. From Lafayette, Colorado, to Lafayette, Louisiana, these water protectors and climate warriors are demanding that companies stop forcing the costs of their activities onto them and their neighbors.
They’re also demanding that our legal system recognizes who is and isn’t culpable. In more than 20 court cases since 2008, climate protesters have defended themselves against charges of trespass and related offenses by arguing that their civil disobedience is legally and morally justified. Drawing on science and history to make their case—as well as an argument used by protesters since the 1970s called the necessity defense–they’re asserting that climate change has spiraled so out of control, and the political process has become so unresponsive to ordinary Americans, that direct action–say, lying in pipeline trenches to block construction—is not a crime but is necessary to protect people and communities. From the Delta 5 to the Valve Turners, fossil fuel resisters are flipping the script.
Courts in most of these cases have tossed out protest defendants’ evidence before it could be presented to juries. Those decisions have often violated defendants’ legal rights, denied juries their function as fact-finders and voices of the community, and kept expert testimony on climate science, public health, and other subjects out of courtrooms.
Some of these decisions have followed revelations of defendants’ plans to call expert witnesses—including James Hansen, a leading climate scientist and former head of NASA. At the landmark trial of the Minnesota “Valve Turners” last month, the prosecutor dropped so many charges beforehand that the case was dismissed for lack of evidence on the second day of trial (the defendants had initially faced felony charges and years in prison). In the case against the West Roxbury pipeline protesters in Massachusetts earlier this year, the charges were downgraded to civil infractions a week before trial, and a judge found the defendants not responsible by reason of necessity.
Let’s be clear: Dropped charges are mixed blessings for activists who want a jury to decide their fate. And some prosecutors’ decisions doubtless owe as much to cost-saving and inflated charging as to political calculation. Conservative lawmakers are mobilizing in response to the Valve Turners, and several bills to impose harsh criminal penalties on climate protesters are pending in state legislatures. Two such bills have been enacted, and many protesters have already faced surveillance.
But prosecutors’ decisions have allowed a notable number of protest defendants to walk free. People are standing in the way of fossil fuel companies, and–with the help of luck, determination, and often, white privilege—some of them are going unpunished.
Laws used to silence and intimidate protesters cannot protect the fossil fuel industry for long. Prosecutors’ ambivalence in these cases is an acknowledgment of the strength of protesters’ arguments—and, in some places, the lack of political will for prosecutions. Popular opposition to fossil fuel profiteering will only grow in an era of climate disaster, and the ballot box isn’t the only place where Americans can make themselves heard.
Which is a very, very good thing—for all of us.
Alice Cherry is a cofounder and staff attorney at Climate Defense Project, which helped represent the West Roxbury defendants and continues to represent the Valve Turners.
Oh, Trumpy Bear. For some, an inspiring, patriotic call to flag-draped stuffed arms. For others, a this-can’t-be-real pileup of direct advertising cliches of Onion-like proportions that perfectly encapsulates the absurdity of Trump, all wrapped up in a teddy.
It’s a year old, and yet this teddy bear with super weird eyebrows sporting that 1980s CEO-style dress shirt with the white cuffs-and-collar (albeit with no actual shirt, giving it the look favored by Chippendales the world over rather than, say, economic advisor Larry Kudlow) has once again captured America’s imagination. Maybe it’s because the holidays are fast approaching, or maybe it’s that a former Marine would ride his Harley with a teddy bear of any kind, but President Trump’s teddy doppelganger is damn near full-on phenomenon status. (And yep, it’s real.)
He makes one lady comfy and warm. He stands guard on the flagpole. He is former Marine Michael Rufino’s co-pilot. He helps Chet’s golf game. He makes Generic Businessman’s business better. He makes flag enthusiast and former army corporal Frank Warholic even prouder of America stuff.
The thing about Trumpy Bear is he’s whatever you want him to be. Patriotic cutie pie. Resistance mascot of the absurd. Whatever bubble you’re in, Trumpy Bear is exactly what you need. It’s the rare piece of agitprop seemingly perfectly created for a post-midterm, pre-2020 climate. This ad’s ability to stir up both patriotism and howls of LOLs on both sides is why it will never die.
Things are good for Twilio. The cloud communications platform that powers apps and services, such as Lyft’s and Uber’s, announced on November 6 that third-quarter earnings had jumped 68% over the same time last year (to $168.9 million). But things are not good for Twilio’s hometown, San Francisco. The city’s been wracked by stubborn homelessness, soaring rents, severe income inequality, and a nasty fight over a ballot initiative that will create a $300 million business tax to fund solutions to those problems. Prop C, as it was called, passed by nearly 60%, but not before it became a flashpoint in a battle of words (and lots of cash) between Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who advocated passing the initiative, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who opposed it.
“This was a huge debate that in many ways tore the city apart–civic leaders against tech leaders, tech leaders against each other,” says Twilio’s CEO Jeff Lawson.
Two days after reporting its positive financial results, on November 8th, Lawson announced that the company would donate $1 million to help jump-start homeless assistance until the new tax kicks in. The money from the new tax won’t be paid out until 2020, and it could be delayed–or even nixed–by lawsuits asserting that tax initiatives need two-thirds approval to pass.
Twilio is committed to making Prop C successful here in SF. I’m inspired by the conversation that Prop C created – and Twilio is committing $1M to support homeless programs to help get the work started even before Prop C money gets deployed.
Lawson says that the donation had been on his mind for a while, but that the actual decision was spontaneous. He doesn’t even know what organization (or organizations) Twilio would make the check out to.
Twilio’s donation is scarcely beyond a symbolic gesture–one third of one percent of what the new tax will bring in, and dwarfed by the $236 million that the city already budgets for housing assistance and homeless programs.
Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff spent twice as much, of his own money, for the Yes on C political campaign, and Salesforce added about $5 million more. The chief political opponent, payments company Stripe, spent half a million, and big Twilio client Lyft contributed $100,000 to the No campaign.
But symbolism could matter in a city drama as emotional as it is legalistic and technocratic. Like most San Francisco businesses, Twilio stayed out of the Prop C debate. But post-election, Lawson is urging tech and other companies to get on board.
“As far as I’m concerned, we as a city, we’ve decided that we’re tackling [homelessness] head on,” he says. “And we’re hoping that other business leaders, civic leaders, and nonprofit leaders who are focused on this problem, can just start stepping up and moving toward the solution part of this, as opposed to the debate.”
Prop c is the dumbest, least thought out prop ever. Please get the facts and vote no. Then lets all focus on real solutions for sf.
Christin Evans, one of the three petitioners who put Prop C on the ballot, agrees that it’s changed the discussion. “I think it’s amazing that, through the Prop C discussion, there has been an increased awareness of the challenges and essentially the real need [to address the housing situation],” says Evans. A bookstore owner, she’s focused on outreach to local businesses for Prop C. “I think that part of [Twilio’s donation] is raising awareness, and incorporating charitable giving into the business framework is a terrific approach.”
As evidence of change, she points to the apparent conversion of billionaire Zynga cofounder Mark Pincus. On November 3, he tweeted that Prop C was the “the dumbest, least thought out prop ever,” prompting a quick attack from Benioff. On November 7, he tweeted support for helping the newly passed measure succeed.
Some good election results. 100 women elected to congress, gavin as gov, and even prop c, which we will all work to make a success for sf homeless.
Prop C matters far beyond San Francisco, as a proxy battle over blame and expectations placed upon a booming tech sector in an increasingly unequal and polarized nation. “It’s been great to have business leaders taking a closer look at what has been a persistent local challenge for a long time,” says Evans. “And perhaps it will lead to broader change not just in San Francisco, and in California, but maybe even around the country.”
Critics of governments and nonprofits call them inefficient and unaccountable–and that money already spent on San Francisco’s homelessness problem isn’t fixing the problem.
Prop C advocates say that just keeping the number of homeless from growing is an achievement, as rents keep rising and the homeless count has been soaring in other cities. Programs have moved many people off the streets and into housing in San Francisco, but newly homeless people have taken their place. More money is needed to move beyond “treading water” and fully solve the problem, says Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, which spearheaded Prop C.
Advocates also say that fabulously wealthy tech companies, which just got a 14% corporate tax break, can certainly toss a fraction of those savings at a new tax to help the least fortunate.
“Marc [Benioff] has always said, this is an immaterial tax,” says Lawson. Twilio hasn’t calculated the new tax burden, he says, but, “It’s not going to make or break anyone here.” Salesforce, a much bigger company, reckons it will pay $10-$12 million more per year. (Square’s Dorsey objected that, because of some local tax law arcana, the tax will have a greater impact on financial firms, reckoning there will be $20 million bill for his company.)
Lawson is a mellower personality than the stocky, prolific-tweeting, Hawaiian shirt-wearing Benioff–who’s spent hundreds of millions to put his own and his company’s names on public buildings around the city. But Lawson has become a growing voice for ethical obligations of the tech sector.
On October 29, he published an essay on Medium calling out tech companies for not taking a harder stance against white supremacists and other hate groups. “It’s in our control to decide who uses our product, and from whom we take money,” he wrote.
I ask Lawson how many Twilio customers have been dropped as a result of new terms of service written last year. “Luckily we have not had very many, or I’m not even sure any, clear cases where we had to kick people off our platform,” says Lawson. He adds, “We wanted to make our intentions absolutely clear. So if we’re faced with that, the decision is easy, and I think that every business leader needs to make their intentions clear.”
One of Lawson’s biggest clients, Shopify, faced criticism and calls for boycott for powering ecommerce on alt-right news site Breitbart. “I’m not going to talk about anyone in particular,” says Lawson, even though he already has talked about some social media companies.
“I absolutely empathize with Facebook and Twitter,” says Lawson, noting that they have a much harder challenge than Twilio. (Jack Dorsey is also CEO of Twitter.) “However, they solve a lot of hard problems when the hard problem is, ‘How do I match up the right ad so you see it and I make more money?'” he says.
Homelessness and income also fall into the hard problem category–not just on how to solve, but on how to get people together working on solutions. Stay tuned for more soul searching, debating, and maybe name-calling on this and many other ethical issues facing big tech.
We should all plead guilty of email addiction. It’s made us anxious, stressed, and miserable. Yet, email is the most common form of communication in every industry, department, and country.
Last year alone, the total number of business and consumer emails sent and received each day was 269 billion, and that’s projected to grow to 319.6 billion in the next three years. We also spend about 2.6 hours each day reading and answering them, which amounts to 27 days of email each year.
We ask and answer questions, manage projects, sell to customers, and even manage crises with our daily digital missives. And while the back and forth can make us feel connected, the more time we spend using it, the fewer face-to-face meetings we have. Email was built to make us more productive and bring us closer together, but our addiction to it has made us isolated and unhealthy.
“It’s the most overused, misused, and inefficient way to communicate,” says Stephanie Bixler, the executive director of Technology Strategic Planning and Digital Strategy at Scholastic. “And it impacts me as it sucks up an enormous amount of time just sorting through and finding what matters vs. what does not. I barely get what I want to get accomplished, and I leave work unsatisfied.”
Simply avoiding email altogether is impossible, yet we can make changes in our behavior that can make our work lives more functional and productive.
The email rebellion
Workers around the world are rebelling against email’s overreach into their personal lives, and both governments and companies are responding. In France, for instance, the Ministry of Labor enacted the “right to disconnect,” a law that permits employees to disconnect outside of office hours. Germany’s Daimler created a program entitled “Mail on Holiday,” that automatically deletes incoming emails when employees are on vacation. In America, Thrive Global, a company founded by Arianna Huffington, has a similar program around deleting emails on vacation.
In a global study by Future Workplace and Virgin Pulse, we asked over 2,000 managers and employees about the technology they are increasingly dependent on when communicating, and almost half said email, compared to 15% who said text messaging and 12% instant messaging.
Over a third of respondents said they are relying on email in place of face-to-face communication with their teammates. As a result of this behavior, they admit they feel lonely and disengaged despite needing social connection. And, over a third said more face-time would save time from multiple back-and-forth email messages. A separate study found that one face-to-face meeting is the equivalent of 34 back-and-forth email exchanges. A single side conversation can eliminate the frustration and tediousness of sending multiple emails.
Email creates the illusion that we’re highly productive because we can multitask and “reply-all,” yet it can create a continuous cycle where nothing gets accomplished. Researchers from the University of California at Irvine conducted an experiment where they eliminated email usage for five consecutive workdays for a group of 13 employees in one organization. The result showed that when workers stopped using email altogether, they were more focused and had reduced stress.
Workers describe their use of email as a “double-edge sword” in how it makes it possible to work remotely and gain freedom and flexibility, but at the cost of impeding on our personal lives. Dan Klamm, the director of alumni relations at Nielsen, commonly receives emails from his global company’s colleagues in other time zones between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
“When I first started working, I was responding to these emails as they came in,” said Klamm. “Then, I realized that I needed to get some clear boundaries for myself or I would be working around the clock!” Some of his boundaries include carrying a separate phone for work, not responding to email at night, and putting his phone on “do not disturb” between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Setting email boundaries
Like 80% of people, I’m guilty of checking my email when I first wake up. Instead of focusing on my priorities, I end up responding to other people’s requests for my attention. Other workers are more restrained and vocal about their email boundaries.
“I never check my email first thing in the morning. It sets me up in ‘reactive’ mode for the day, whether I realize it or not,” says Carly Charlson, senior manager of public relations at Best Buy.
You have to set your own boundaries and manage email in the way that works best for you. When you’re always ‘”on,” are you ever truly “on”? Our overuse, and misuse, of email has made us miserable, less productive, and more stressed out. For the time being, email is at the core of our work culture, but as new collaborative technologies gain widespread adoption, our ability to pick and choose what to use–and when–will become more important. It’s time to use email to bring us closer together, set boundaries between work and life and not let it get the best of us.
Long burdened by an economic recession and oppressive student debt, millennials, it seems, are finally starting to save money. Swedish startup Qapital, which has been helping millennials and the digitally savvy automatically save for everything from beachside surfing trips to a new car since 2015, wants to help them save better.
Already its mobile app connects with banks to slog away money for 1.3 million users. It even has an if-this-than-that functionality that adds cash to your savings when you, say, buy another latte at Starbucks. On average, Qapital users save $1,500 per year. Now, it’s launching a suite of financial services to help people who want to handle their finances with a bit more granularity. But don’t worry, it’s still automated.
Today the company is rolling out three new products:
Payday Divvy: As soon as your deposit hits your account, Qapital will divide up your check. A person may, for example, want to parcel out their expenses first. The app will give you the opportunity to decide what you want to do with the rest, whether than means putting a portion of it into a savings account or beginning a foray into investing.
Qapital Invest: This is Qapital’s first time getting into the investment game. Its approach is similar to micro-investing account Acorns. Starting at $10, Qapital invest will put your money into a portfolio of stocks based on the risk level you’re comfortable with.
Spending Tracker: Qapital will help you set a budget–daunting, I know. Once it’s set, though, the app will notify you when you spend money with balance updates that tell you when and where you spent that dough. This feature is meant to help you find the perfect amount of spending, so you still get that coffee in the morning, but maybe bring your lunch to work more.
An important note: Qapital is no longer free. Starting today, it is launching a new subscription service. Users will now have to pay either $3, $6, or $12 a month to access various Qapital savings tools. Longtime Qapital users will be grandfathered in to the new system, which means they can continue to use Qapital for free. The rest of us will have to pay.