Daily Archives: September 10, 2021

VICTORY: HARVARD DIVESTS FROM FOSSIL FUELS

After nearly a decade of organizing by students, faculty, alumni, and community members, we have succeeded in pushing one of the world’s richest and most powerful universities to divest from the fossil fuel industry. For

too long, Harvard has stood on the wrong side of history, lending legitimacy to the companies driving global warming and climate injustice by investing part of its $42 billion endowment in them.

The announcement came after 10 years of demonstrations, petitions, and elections by students, faculty, alumni, and community members all favoring fossil fuel divestment, including a historic protest at the 2019 Harvard-Yale football game, which involved hundreds of participants and represented the largest-ever protest for fossil fuel divestment from a university.

This is a huge win for fossil fuel divestment and the fight for climate justice, but there’s still so much work to do. Harvard still needs to follow through on this commitment, sever its many ties with the fossil fuel industry, abandon the false notion of industry “engagement” around decarbonization, and address the gaping holes in its net-zero by 2050 pledge, among other steps. Furthermore, Harvard must divest from all extractive and exploitative industries, including the prison-industrial complex and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. We stand in solidarity with the Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign and Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine and their demands for such divestment.

Our campaign will continue to call for transparency and public accountability around the university’s endowment, its reinvestment into just causes, and an end to the corrupting influence of the fossil fuel industry.

It is with great pride and joy that Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard celebrates a momentous victory for our community, the climate and divestment movement, and our planet. After nearly a decade of organizing by students, faculty, alumni, and community members, we have succeeded in pushing one of the world’s richest and most powerful universities to divest from the fossil fuel industry. For too long, Harvard has stood on the wrong side of history, lending legitimacy to the companies driving global warming and environmental injustice by investing part of its $42 billion endowment in them. Today, it stands with more than 1,300 institutions controlling over $14.6 trillion worth of assets worldwide in taking a clear stand against the industry’s deadly business model.

With Harvard’s recent announcement, it is clear that the university is beginning to align itself with the demands of climate science and climate justice — undoubtedly, in large part due to the tireless work of our campaign’s activists. President Lawrence Bacow’s email announcing the university’s divestment commitments came only two days after roughly 80 students demonstrated their support for divestment in the middle of Harvard Yard. The email also explicitly acknowledged the university’s fiduciary duty to “to make long-term investment decisions that support our teaching and research mission,” and therefore to cease investing in companies that explore for or further develop reserves of fossil fuels. Such language directly invokes our legal complaint against the university’s fossil fuel investments, filed with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, which argues that such investments violate Harvard’s fiduciary duties as a nonprofit investor. And of course, the announcement came after 10 years of demonstrations, petitions, and elections by students, faculty, alumni, and community members all favoring fossil fuel divestment, including a historic protest at the 2019 Harvard-Yale football game, which involved hundreds of participants and represented the largest-ever protest for fossil fuel divestment from a university.

President Bacow’s language showed, however, that Harvard still remains afraid to fully sever ties with the fossil fuel industry. Never once has it used the word “divest,” even as it is now making clear commitments to undertake the divestment process. That cowardice and its deadly consequences should not go unnoticed; Harvard continues to propagate a false notion of “engagement” with the fossil fuel industry around decarbonization when, as our organizers have pointed out time and again, the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that fossil fuel companies are not embracing, have no plans to embrace, and are even endeavoring to block a just transition away from fossil fuels in alignment with Paris Agreement goals to curb dangerous and irreversible levels of planetary warming.

To be clear, Harvard’s announcement is only the very beginning of what the university must do to fully realize its responsibilities to its community and society. First, it must follow through on its commitment to cease all further investments in fossil fuel companies, and move immediately to phase out the indirect investments constituting less than 2 percent of the endowment (which could be up to $840 million). Second, it must address gaping holes in its net-zero by 2050 endowment pledge by outlining interim targets for endowment decarbonization, guaranteeing that investments will focus on absolute emissions reductions rather than carbon offsets, and committing to pursue investment opportunities that support a rapid and just transition to a clean energy economy. Third, Harvard must stop lending its prestige and power to the fossil fuel industry in ways other than investment — for example, by ceasing to allow fossil fuel interests to fund campus research and programming or recruit on campus. At the very least, Harvard must take immediate steps to make transparent the imprint of fossil fuel industry funding on campus and in the research it produces. Furthermore, Harvard must end its investments in all extractive and exploitative industries, including the prison industrial complex and the Israeli occupation of Palestine, in line with demands from the Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign and Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine

Our campaign looks forward to ensuring that Harvard takes those necessary next steps. Accordingly, we welcome a meeting with the Harvard administration to discuss a plan for how it will uphold and bolster its climate commitments. Our campaign will continue to call for transparency and public accountability around the university’s endowment, its reinvestment into just causes, and an end to the corrupting influence of the fossil fuel industry on Harvard’s intellectual, educational, and charitable mission. Decisive and timely action is the only solution to the climate crisis, and we intend to hold Harvard and all of its peer institutions accountable.

…(read more).

See:

“Isn’t there something wrong here?” Digitization and The Emerging Technologies to Enhance Humanities Scholarship and Teaching World-wide

Euro-Centric-Maps

The digital revolution has had an enormous impact on the advancement of humanities disciplines around the world.  Numerous advances within the field of African studies illustrate this process clearly.

For example, African historical cartography has proved itself to be one of the most puzzling yet rewarding enterprises in the digital humanities across the globe.  At its core is a paradox.  Africa was arguably the first continent to have been circumnavigated and mapped in world, yet those who mapped it were — by in large — not from Africa.  What kinds of distortions and misunderstandings then, might we expect to be “build in” to the largely “Euro-centric” development of African cartography?

Analyzing the maps of the slave trade is particularly challenging yet very rewarding for scholars of African history and culture.  New technologies and new techniques now make it possible to undertake research on a level of detail as well as across all disciplines and all cultural traditions.  Anyone equipped with a cell phone, an iPad or a computer with internet connections can now access and contribute to the collaborative and collective work of scholars on an international scale.

Some of this work is being undertaken by participants in “The Africa Map Circle:”

More work remains to be done by generation after generation of new scholars equipped and trained by digitally competent librarians who can help guide the research of scholars through university “digital laboratories,” like Yale’s “Digital Humanities Lab (DHLab)”

Yale-DHLab-500

or Harvard’s History Design Studio (HDS):

Harvard-HDS-500

Facilities like this are mushrooming on university campuses across the country and are rapidly becoming the nodal point both for elaborating new teaching techniques and for developing whole new research agenda in all of the fields of the humanities.

Beyond African Studies…. Enhancing Global Perspectives in the Humanities:

The potential to develop these technologies is by no means limited to African studies.  Even though the tools and techniques may have become the most advanced in this realm, there is no reason that they cannot be extended to a long-awaited study of many of the humanities disciplines across all historical periods, cultural communities and linguistic traditions.  

In addition the increasing contemporary usage of QR codes in museums and outdoor exhibits world-wide — from the UNESCO sponsored exhibits at archeological sites in Sicily, Italy through to museums like the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston, Massachusetts — demonstrates that the links between museum treasures, historical documentation and video guided itineraries of self-discovery have become globally dispersed and universally treasured as a means of exploring the humanities across all cultures. 

Display-of-art

Other examples abound from the museums in Europe and those that have worked with the international treasures protected by UNESCO.  Consider, for example, the power of the open-air sign placed outside the Chiesa di Sanata Maria della Scale in the city of Ragusa in Sicily. 

Santa-maria-della

It seems like a somewhat mundane church — as far as the magnificent cathedrals of Italy go — but for tourists, students and professional art historians, it is a precious point of pilgrimage for those drawn to the beauty of Italian art of the Renaissance, Baroque, and the Age of Enlightenment.  If you arrive to view it after the hours it customarily open you are may well glace at this sign posted outside the church, captured here in a snapshot taken with an iPhone at 11:00pm.  The sign is simple enough and doesn’t seem to convey a lot of information…. except….

Ragusa-Chiesa-sign-01-500

… EXCEPT that it posts a QR code within itself.   Often it is high school or college students who notice this — rather than the adults who may be accompanying them.  The reason is that — to a surprising degree — nearly all students around the world now know what a QR code is and what it enable them to do.   If the QR code is “scanned” in on an iPhone, an iPad or even as a “picture” to be scanned later by an QR scanner of some sort anyone with access to this technology can can begin to learn about “linked” material. 

Here, for example, is an enlarged version of the QR code in the sign pictured above.  If you have an iPhone or iPad that can scan in this image, you can begin to learn a great deal more than just what the sign outside the church itself contains.   

Ragusa-Chiesa-sign-02-det-b

 

This is clearly an imperfect image, derived as it is from an enlargement of a snapshot taken at 11:00pm under very low natural light at 11:00pm in Ragusa, Sicily.  Nonetheless, this code (when scanned) can yield great rewards for the curious.   If you can, scan the QR code with a iPhone or iPad please do.  Then wait until it resolves itself to view what it reveals.  Next, wait and watch until it is finished.

“Access” to virtual tours like this are available now from countless points in Italy and Europe.  Moreover, within museums and libraries, it is increasingly common to find links to individual items in the displayed collections, like this one, for example from the museum in Agrigento in Sicily:

Agrigento-Museum-item

In fact, individual “objects” like these displayed in “cases” or “under glass” can now be virtually scanned from all angles and “rendered” for viewing either within museums or anywhere around the world through “Virtual” and/or “Augmented Reality.”  Museums have learned how to adopt and adapt this technology perhaps more quickly than departments of history or art history in the standard academic setting.  See for example:

and the imaginative and creative work that has been undertaken by some museums to combine digital VR & AR technologies within the realm of the natural sciences.

In other respects digital technologies have afforded viewers opportunities to discover new aspacts of the creative history of the world’s most famous artists and reflect as well on the art’s skills to create a new understanding of the “familiar.”

While historians, artists, art historians and museum personnel have each contributed enormous talents to these endeavors, it is perhaps the digital librarians that deserve our particular thanks for the innovative manner in which they have responded to the “meta-data” challenges of relating art to history and art history to the world at large.

 

Politics and Development


Center for Global Development

Streamed live 22 hours ago

In the Future of Development series, the Center for Global Development and the Georgetown University Initiative on Innovation, Development and Evaluation (gui2de) bring together development experts, scholars, and policymakers to address the big questions facing developing countries and help shape the agenda in global development over the next decade. In this edition, Leonard Wantchekon and Sarah Khan will join host Shanta Devarajan to discuss the role of politics in development, and vice versa. https://www.cgdev.org/event/politics-…

CODE RED, IPCC Climate Report

Facing Future– Sep 9, 2021

The 2021 Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change, #IPCC, report marks an alarming turning point, but its summary message for policy makers misses the reality that stabilizing at 1.5-2°C over pre- industrial levels will fail to preserve a livable environment.

Already, at under 1.2°C, extreme weather and climate tipping points have been reached. The #CarbonSinks that supported a carbon budget are already stressed to the limit. The Amazon, once a major sink, is now a net emitter of greenhouse gases, due to rainforest destruction for animal and industrial agriculture and wildfires. The Arctic is melting fast, releasing methane from peat bogs, tundra, and from under the disappearing ice, whose ability to reflect heat, is also essential.

Even as industrial and fossil fuel interests control political and financial agendas, food security may be the decisive threat that makes policy-makers listen. As people become increasingly aware of the devastation around them, surveys show that a large percentage of the world’s population is now in support of the major changes that are necessary to survive the existential threat of climate change.

Code Red is the highest level of alert, but we are almost out of time to heed it and to reduce human-produced emissions sufficiently to slow down the rising concentration of greenhouse gases, and to preserve the Earth’s essential carbon sinks. Peter Carter, Brian Wright, and Mark Anderson reveal that the IPCC report needs to send a clearer and even more urgent message.