1 People must pay to slow climate change (Straits Times) Are Americans worried about climate change? Do they want their government to regulate greenhouse gases? A recent survey – by Stanford University, The New York Times and Resources for the Future – has found strong majorities saying “yes” to both questions.
But there is a big catch, which is not getting the attention it deserves: A strong majority is also opposed to higher taxes on petrol or electricity in order to fight climate change. The pattern of responses is essentially the same as it was in the late 1990s, when the US was debating whether to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
In one poll at the time, 59 per cent of Americans favoured ratification. At the same time, a majority would oppose the Kyoto Protocol if it would cost them personally US$50 per month. When that hypothetical monthly cost was raised to US$100, almost 90 per cent said they would oppose it.
How can most Americans be unwilling to pay to reduce a problem they believe will damage them personally? One answer is that many people believe companies can reduce emissions on their own, and without imposing costs on consumers. (Unfortunately, that is highly unrealistic.)
The recent survey does provide a clear lesson for national political campaigns: Candidates will have trouble if they decline to acknowledge climate change or say they don’t want to address it. At the same time, they have to be wary of favouring initiatives that would impose significant costs on American consumers. Effective campaigning is one thing; adult conversations are another, and they cannot avoid the question of cost.
2 In the Caribbean, women rise while men stagnate (San Francisco Chronicle) According to data analyzed by the International Labor Organization, nearly 60 percent of managers in Jamaica are women. That’s the globe’s highest percentage and way ahead of developed countries. Colombia, at 53 percent, and St. Lucia, at 52 percent, are the only other nations in the world where women are more likely than men to be the boss, according to the ILO’s global list. The highest ranking first world nation is the US, with almost 43 percent, and the lowest is Japan, at 11 percent.
The Caribbean and Latin America have seen such big improvements in the economic and social status of women that gender gaps in education, labor force participation, access to health systems and political engagement “have narrowed, closed and sometimes even reversed direction,” according to a World Bank study.
But while government officials and educators celebrate that fact they also have serious worries about stagnating men, who have lower levels of academic achievement and are at increased risk of falling into criminality, trends that undermine the gains by females.
Wayne Campbell, a Jamaican high school teacher who blogs about the problem of male underachievement, believes toxic notions about masculinity permeate entire communities, reinforced by a popular music culture that often celebrates law-breaking. Boys who display school smarts are often ridiculed as effeminate by peers and even adults in areas where academic excellence by males is typically devalued, he says. “It’s almost as if manhood and masculinity have been hijacked by a thug culture far removed from education,” he said.
With far more women pursuing higher education compared to men, the gender gap could grow lopsided. For years, there’s been a steady 70-30 ratio in favor of women at the University of the West Indies, a public university system serving 18 Caribbean countries and territories.
3 Any wonder religion is on the wane? (Benjamin Jones in The Guardian) Every non-believer comes to atheism or agnosticism in their own way. A lack of religion is a common feature of advanced societies, and a new poll is the latest in a long line that show a marked decline in religiosity, particularly among young people.
We live in an age where we seriously plan to send human beings to Mars, where the life expectancy for westerners is Methuselah-like, but where beheadings, crucifixion and rape are commonly used weapons of war.
For some, this stark choice leads to an obvious conclusion: that religion is a force for ill. For these atheists, their lack of belief is a defining characteristic, along with their conviction that religion is retrograde.
Others have simply been brought up in the general cultural atheism of our time, where religion is not a major part of people’s lives. In this case, lack of belief is almost incidental; it is not a part of their belief system or values, it is simply an absence. The same poll also finds that lack of religious belief is much less common among older Britons than in 18- to 24-year-olds.
The great generational gulf is one I attribute (at least in part) to traditions, and to the sense of belonging and community that the church provides for older people. For many older Anglicans, community, I wager, is a much stronger incentive for church attendance than theology.
Although younger people are generally far less religious than their parents, there are reasons to think the reverse may be true for British Muslims, and atheism should not been seen as an inevitability. While this latest YouGov/Times poll is another benchmark in the decline of religious belief in the UK, much more study is needed to understand all that is driving this, and where religion may still be resurgent.