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Image credits: Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/29/coronavirus-pandemic-1918-protests-california

It’s not about liberty. It’s about domination.

Right-wing hostility to COVID-19 restrictions, including the simple act of wearing a facemask, has been an ongoing theme of the political polarization that culminated in the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Even as members of Congress were taking refuge, crowded into close quarters as an armed mob invaded the Capitol, many Republican members refused to wear masks. Several members of Congress, exposed to colleagues who didn’t cover their faces, have since tested positive for COVID.

A common understanding of resistance against COVID restrictions is that they are perceived to violate individual liberty, particularly the individualist value of non-interference. According to the value of non-interference, individuals should not face external obstacles or barriers in exercising choices. A key role of the state is protecting individuals from direct harm, a form of interference, by others. Paradoxically, such regulation is itself a form of interference. It is a necessary evil that limits personal liberty. Therefore, the power of the state should itself be highly circumscribed and only used to prevent harm in cases where the threat is clear and noncontroversial. Anti-maskers argue — wrongly — that mask wearing offers little protection against the spread of COVID and that government mask mandates are therefore unreasonable. One anti-masker said, “It’s a violation of my freedom, I think, and then also I just don’t think they work. A lot of stuff says it does, but then some doesn’t.” Such views are often fueled by misinformation or even conspiracy theories about COVID, as well as the failure to recognize that wearing a mask primarily protects others rather than oneself. …


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Until recently, media outlets, when running stories about global warming, often felt compelled to also include, often in the same article, scientifically groundless views denying the reality of human-caused climate change. Newspapers and other publications supposedly acknowledged these views in the name of journalistic balance. However, airing such denialism made as much sense as publishing the rants of 9/11 Truthers and the Anti-vaxxers. Researchers Max and Jules Boykoff found that such so-called balance actually violated another journalistic value, objectivity, as publicizing groundless climate denialism presented a distorted picture of the state of climate science. Media balance obscured the fact that there has been a decades-long consensus that human beings are heating the planet. In the case of climate change, balance effectively became bias.


Saving our planet will require making our country more democratic.

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source: https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/6/13/15681498/trump-government-fossil-fuels

Is America’s failure to address climate change evidence that democracies are not up to the task, that voters won’t support the adjustments and sacrifices necessary for a transition away from fossil fuels? Plenty of ink has been spilled about this question, but at least in the U.S., it increasingly seems that that a key obstacle to climate action is not too much democracy, but too little. The problem may lie with our counter-majoritarian institutions, specifically the Electoral College, the Senate and the Supreme Court. …


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source: https://goodstock.photos/empty-airport-terminal-hall/

The COVID-19 pandemic has had unexpected implications for climate change. COVID-19 mitigation has meant reductions in travel, industrial activity, and energy consumption. These measures are significantly reducing carbon emissions. Though governments have mandated these measures, in many cases they are willingly accepted, and motivated by a spirit of collective sacrifice. Given the enormity of the sacrifice, which has involved shutting down much of modern life, and given its impact on carbon emissions, does collective sacrifice in the face of this pandemic provide an inspiring model for the struggle against climate change? The answer is complicated.

At its most noble and egalitarian, sacrifice pulls communities together. We agree to shoulder hardship or self-deprivation in order to serve the common good or even ensure collective survival. Here, we are reminded of the roots of the word sacrifice itself, which, as political scientist Karen Litfin points out, are sacre, sacred, and facere, to make. Thus, as she notes, sacrifice is not merely self-deprivation, but elevates the actor by building connections with others and involving one in a larger sense of purpose. …


Is it Time for a Climate Uprising?

Levi Draheim is twelve years old. He lives on a Florida barrier island threatened by rising sea levels. He is also one of a group of young people suing the U.S. government for inaction on climate change. The case, Juliana v. United States, is making its way through the courts. As recently reported in Grist, Draheim said at a public event, “The constitution says that I have a right to life, liberty, and property. …


Climate Deniers Threaten the Individual Liberty They Claim to Champion

The growing public demand for climate action has sent the American political right into paroxysms of apocalyptic rhetoric about socialist dictators taking away your cars, air travel, and hamburgers. This is another variation on the message that the right has been delivering for years: efforts to address climate change are antithetical to individual liberty. The whole argument, however, is predicated on a persistent denial of anthropogenic global warming. Once one accepts the reality of climate change, it becomes plain that the true threat to a free society is not aggressive climate regulation, but unchecked climate change itself.


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photo source: Jacksons Fencing - https://www.jacksons-security.co.uk/News/blog/school-access-control-what-to-consider-6893.aspx

The gun control bill signed by Florida Governor Rick Scott in the wake of the Parkland school mass shooting adopts the much-debated policy of arming at least some teachers. Though the Florida law does contain measures to restrict access to guns and also bans bump stocks, the idea of arming teachers and “hardening” schools against attack is a favorite of those opposing actual restrictions on guns. There is much discussion of the practical difficulties and physical dangers of arming teachers. …

About

Peter F. Cannavo

Professor of Government at Hamilton College

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