The word that came to me during this week’s episode is conscientiousness.
Conscientiousness popped in my mind while sitting down with Jamille Bigio, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, about the ongoing civil war in Syria. It did so because the Trump Administration asserts that the US and its allies attacked Syrian chemical weapon facilities last week to halt the worst of the killing. But the 500,000 people who have already died in this conflict were killed overwhelmingly by conventional, rather than chemical, means. And it seems a far cry from conscientious to signal that the Syrian regime can continue to kill but only with methods approved by the US, Britain, and France.
The hope in Syria is that the women there have begun to form new power networks which bring low-level forms of peace, like temporary cease fires, to their neighborhoods and towns. But despite the fact that women are a positive force in Syria, Jamille said that they are routinely excluded from ongoing talks about how to bring peace to Syria; even though her research shows that when women are brought into a national peace process it is 60 percent more likely to be a success. This exclusion of women strikes me as neither smart nor right.
Speaking of neither smart nor right, BBC US political analyst, Eric Ham, explored with me the harsh reality of Trump’s new poll numbers. They show that the president, after an alleged brief flirtation with a 50 percent approval rating, is back to where he’s mostly been around the high 30s. The fact that the bombings in Syria occurred against the backdrop of these lower poll numbers, alongside his chronic legal woes, led me to wonder whether the strikes are being carried out conscientiously or to solve short-term political problems.
Yet no issue better represents the question of conscientiousness like climate change, particularly relevant this Earth Day. That’s why I talked to Caroline Lewis of Miami’s The Cleo Institute about the link between climate change and gentrification there.
So many of us when we hear the phrase “climate change” think of Leonardo diCaprio driving to the Oscars in a Prius. But the truth is that those bearing the brunt of the climate crisis in the United States and around the world are black and brown, and poor.
In Miami this is playing out through what Caroline told me was “climate gentrification” where the more affluent—currently in low-lying areas closer the coast—are buying up properties in communities of color, such as Little Haiti, where the ground is higher. This is driving black and brown residents to newly cheaper, neighborhoods below sea level. But like Syria there’s hope. The Cleo Institute and others are creating an alternative vision which you can find out about here.
For another perspective, Thanu Yakupitiyage of 350.org argues that a long-term solution to climate change is to push fossil fuel companies to act differently. These corporations are among the largest on the planet which means that they have real power. Thanu believes that the efforts by more than 800 organizations to withdraw over $6 trillion from their wealth is the way to get corporations together around their role in warming the planet. For more information about where she’s coming from and divestment efforts in your area click here.
And for my Hot Tea, pop-culture segment I speak about how for black women Shonda Rhimes’ “Scandal” was a once-in-a-forty-year event. The show which ended this week put a black woman as the lead of primetime network program. That hadn’t happened since the 1970s. And more importantly it cast an African-American woman as the undeniable hero of the story—literally putting her in a white hat—in a rebuke to a 100 years of racist, sexist stereotypes which reserved that role for white men. Nothing strikes me as more conscientious than that.