This month marks the 25th anniversary of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which claimed the lives of upwards of one million people. While many Rwandans actively participated in genocidal violence by killing their neighbors, friends and fellow parishioners, hundreds—if not thousands—made a vastly different decision: they actively saved others who were persecuted. As part of a larger project on the social factors that shape rescue efforts during genocide, we had the privilege this week to speak with those who saved others, 25 years ago.
Author Archives: Mobilizing Ideas
During the last month, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made waves by calling for a Green New Deal to combat climate change, a call that has been branded impossible and unrealistic despite climatologists’ urgent calls for wide-scale change. However, human impact on the Earth’s environment has been so devastating that geological scientists have indicated that we are in a new planetary epoch called the Anthropocene. Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA point out that the five warmest years on global record have come in the 2010s. Frequent wildfires, extended droughts, and increased duration and intensity of tropical storms characterize this new climate. Unfortunately, the IPCC predicts that these conditions will worsen, as they expect the Earth’s temperature will rise 1.5 Celsius by 2030.
In spite of this existential threat to human existence, climate change has received little attention in recent presidential elections, and the Trump administration is undermining, rather than aiding efforts to slow global warming.
This month, we have four outstanding contributions that analyze environmental activists from multiple regions. Many thanks for their contributions on this topic:
- Pablo Lapegna, University of Georgia (essay)
- Hilary Boudet, Leanne Giordono, and Chad Zanocco, Oregon State University (essay)
- Chie Togami and Suzanne Staggenborg, University of Pittsburgh (essay)
- Lucas Christel, National University of San Martín (essay)
Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo
Do Extreme Weather Events Spur Action on Climate Change? Evidence of Muted Mobilization in 15 U.S. Communities
A growing scientific consensus recognizes human-caused climate change as contributing to the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. Moreover, scholars and activists alike contend that extreme weather events may provide the best opportunity for raising public awareness, and perhaps even instigating policy action related to climate change adaptation and mitigation. We undertook a systematic comparative case analysis of 15 communities that experienced extreme weather events in the United States between 2012 and 2015 to identify under what conditions and via what mechanisms communities undertake significant climate-related actions following an extreme weather event. We drew on data from local newspaper coverage of each event, interviews with community leaders and active participants in each location’s recovery efforts, secondary data sources about the event’s impact, and surveys with residents.
Climate change is an unprecedented threat to our planet, a catastrophic emergency that is happening now – glaciers are melting, coral reefs are bleaching, and countries all over the world are experiencing extreme weather events such as devastating floods, fires, and storms. It is both maddening and puzzling why we did not take more action much sooner to save the planet. Scientific consensus about the unsustainable release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and the dangerous impacts of climate change first emerged nearly forty years ago. Since then, the United States has failed to pass major legislation aimed at slowing climate change, withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accords, and sustained one of the highest rates of climate denial in the world. Political will – especially among leading producers of greenhouse gases such as the U.S. – remains virtually nonexistent. Many of us who are frustrated with the lack of government action on climate change hope that social movement opposition to fossil fuels and our carbon-based economy will have an impact. While climate change has not yet spurred the kind of extensive grassroots activism needed (McAdam 2017), recent developments in grassroots activism on climate change provide reason for optimism. In response to political intransigence, grassroots activists are marching in the streets, boycotting fossil fuel corporations, halting pipeline projects, and lobbying elected officials for comprehensive climate change legislation.
The mining industry strongly contributes to global warming and climate change. On the one hand, mining is one of the major emitters of greenhouse gases globally and consumes enormous amounts of energy and water (Climate Democracy 2016). On the other hand, this industry is a central component of a model of excessive consumption of resources and financial speculation linked to the use of minerals.
“Together we can cool the planet.” With this phrase (explained in an accessible 15-minute clip), the global social movement Via Campesina launched a campaign in 2015 to draw attention to the role of industrial or corporate agriculture in global warming and to advocate for solutions that promote agroecology and social justice.
The Politics of Losing: Trump, the Klan, and the Mainstreaming of Resentment
Dr. Rory McVeigh, University of Notre Dame
Dr. Kevin Estep, Creighton University
“Trump Books” seem to be a dime-a-dozen since the 2016 presidential election, however, McVeigh and Estep offer something different. They examine not the man, but Trump Supporters and the emerging structural conditions in the United States that he appealed to. Building on McVeigh’s previous work on power devaluation theory and the Ku Klux Klan, McVeigh and Estep’s new book analyzes the parallels of the Klan of the 1920’s and Trump support today. With a global reemergence of right-wing movements, their book investigates a topic that is timely for scholars in many contexts.
The Ku Klux Klan has peaked three times in American history: after the Civil War, around the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, and in the 1920s, when the Klan spread farthest and fastest. Recruiting millions of members even in non-Southern states, the Klan’s nationalist insurgency burst into mainstream politics. Almost one hundred years later, the pent-up anger of white Americans left behind by a changing economy has once again directed itself at immigrants and cultural outsiders and roiled a presidential election.
In The Politics of Losing, Rory McVeigh and Kevin Estep trace the parallels between the 1920s Klan and today’s right-wing backlash, identifying the conditions that allow white nationalism to emerge from the shadows. White middle-class Protestant Americans in the 1920s found themselves stranded by an economy that was increasingly industrialized and fueled by immigrant labor. Mirroring the Klan’s earlier tactics, Donald Trump delivered a message that mingled economic populism with deep cultural resentments. McVeigh and Estep present a sociological analysis of the Klan’s outbreaks that goes beyond Trump the individual to show how his rise to power was made possible by a convergence of circumstances. White Americans’ experience of declining privilege and perceptions of lost power can trigger a political backlash that overtly asserts white-nationalist goals. The Politics of Losing offers a rigorous and lucid explanation for a recurrent phenomenon in American history, with important lessons about the origins of our alarming political climate.