Sunday, March 8, 2009

Poor, Black, & Undereducated. So what's new?

Nothing, but this is an intriguing book review article I've come across in the New York Times - Why the Poor Stay Poor. Richard Thompson Ford is a professor of law at Stanford University, whose book The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse is being published in paperback this month.

An excerpt from the article:

"Today many ghetto residents have almost no contact with mainstream American society or the normal job market. As a result, they have developed distinctive and often dysfunctional social norms."

I encountered this very phenomenon at the job I had and quit last year. The review discusses both sides of the issue - the conservatives and liberals explanation of 'the problem' with/of poor [black people]. But Wilson makes no friends on either side. He sees the problem as complex and an accumulation of both historical institutional racist and classist policies and changes in economic policy which many poor blacks have not been able to keep pace with.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Weekly Science Update - Your Health and the Health of Your Environment

Your Health

Why Does Hair Go Gray? I wonder that sometimes as I notice newer gray hairs - at my browline - everyday. Some attribute it to stress or age or an indicator of wisdom. It's is actually a tell-tale sign of biochemical process slowing down. Read more here.

At Christmas time, all of the young children I know received at least one present in common - a video game system or related accesories. Though a fan of Sega Genesis and Atari, I was curious how (and why) some parents would spend so much money on this type of plaything in such a precarious economic environment? However, I'm also concerned about the children themselves. For many children, well-off and poor alike, video entertainment (systems and internet) have become their sole entertainment. They seem less interested in going outside to play, reading a book (maybe a graphic that mimics a game), and definitely less interested in homework and interacting with others. Coming across this article that Video games linked to poor relationships with friends, family really seemed to hit the nail on the head for me.

Your Environment

Again this economic crisis has caused me to think more heavily about how I (and we as a society) spend my/our time and resources. Now, more than ever, I think Going Green! has many, many benefits - saving money, stretching a dollar, getting more exercise, stimulating creativity, enjoying the simple things, helping the environment. Plus, I've always been a proponent of green advocacy as a means to improved the lives of our more financially vulnerable citizens. Now, a new study from Scotland provides some empirical evidence to why Going Green! benefits the poor - 'Green' Neighborhoods Reduce Mortality for the Poor.

There may be a new Indicator Species on the block- Wall Lizards. Environmental science researchers from Italy have found that wall lizards may be reliable early detectors for toxins and other pollutants from onshore oil drilling activity. Lizards from towns downwind from the processing plants bloods had very high levels of toxins that negatively affect the lizards and humans. Read more here.