By Courtney E. Martin
NY Times Published: SEPT. 20, 2016
Working families in the United States have many struggles today: expensive child care, not enough time to cook healthy meals, disconnection from nature, a sense of social isolation — what the sociologist Robert Putnam famously called “bowling alone” — and more. Older Americans, a booming population, often end up segregated generationally and in dire need of care and companionship.
What if there was a potential salve to all of these struggles? One that was introduced to Americans 25 years ago, but hasn’t yet gone to scale?
That potential solution is cohousing, a form of shared living in which groups of families with their own private homes (usually about 15 to 40 households) also share common spaces — a kitchen and eating area, often a garden, tool shed, or laundry facilities, or all of them, and a set of principles and practices about living interdependently. The principles can vary, depending on the size and type of community (urban vs. rural, religious vs. secular, intergenerational vs. over 65), but most groups hold in common a belief that a high quality of life is achieved not through self-sufficiency, but through a village mentality. Families will often share meals, yard work and repair labor, sometimes even cars; they also help one another spontaneously in many other ways.
Louise Dunlap, 78, has rented a studio apartment in a nine-unit cohousing community for the last six years. “Interdependence,” she says, “goes beyond turning the compost and fixing the washing machine. I get a chance to share meals and deep conversations. There’s a kind of love that grows out of these connections — not romantic love, not family love, but something about our common humanity. I wish everyone could experience this.”
The first distinctive cohousing community in America, Muir Commons, was built in Davis, Calif., in 1991 by the architects Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett, who became familiar with cohousing while studying architecture in Copenhagen in the 1980s. They have written an authoritative book on cohousing in America and today run their architectural firm, the Cohousing Company, from Nevada City, Calif.
Europeans have been the pioneers in this particular form of shared living; there are more than 700 cohousing communities in Denmark alone. In comparison, according to the latest count done by the Cohousing Association of the United States, there are only 160 established in just 25 states across the country.
So why have we been so slow to catch on?
First, there’s a lack of awareness. People often picture hippie communes when they hear “cohousing.” Alice Alexander, the executive director of the Cohousing Association, draws this distinction: “There’s nothing wrong with communes, but cohousers actually value privacy and structure highly.”
Another big hurdle is financing. When they set out in 2009 to create a 24-unit cohousing community in downtown Durham, N.C., Alexander and her co-founders were turned down by 10 institutions before getting a loan. The project didn’t officially open until 2014.
The problem, Alexander says, is that “banks have no mechanism set up to get a loan for a cohousing community to buy land or fund marketing so you can find your ‘tribe.’ ”
Traditionally, many people who want to build a home finance the purchase of the land themselves and then use the property as collateral for a building loan. But if you’re buying the larger piece of land necessary to build a comprehensive cohousing community, the cost can be prohibitive. Alexander says that National Cooperative Bank is on the cutting edge of trying to figure out new mechanisms, but it’s slow going. Cohousing communities are typically structured and incorporated as homeowner associations, condo associations or housing cooperatives.
But there are alternatives to building from the ground up. More recently, people have been gravitating toward what is called “retrofit cohousing,” in which neighbors transform an existing neighborhood over time. There are 11 retrofit cohousing communities operating in the United States today, and more in development, according to the Cohousing Association.
Americans’ interest in cohousing is growing. The Cohousing Association knows of 120 communities currently in formation. The 2015 National Cohousing Conference was the largest yet, and dozens of architectural firms and real estate developers have specialized in working on these types of communities. At Alexander’s community alone, 300 people are on a waiting list.
According to Alexander, aging baby boomers are driving the expansion; many want to downsize and find supportive communities. Additionally, millennials, many of whom experienced co-op living in college, are just starting their families. They are accustomed to a sharing economy that subscribes to many of cohousing’s principles and practices.
For some, the many benefits of cohousing make the challenges of creating or finding such a community feel worth it. In expensive cities, it can be cost-effective and stimulating, intellectually and emotionally, to share regular meals in a group. Rather than depending on the nuclear family unit to meet all emotional needs, cohousing participants have a wide range of people to talk to.
Proximity and regularity matter. A recent study found that most people report having only two close confidants with whom they have important discussions on a regular basis. It’s a lot easier to sit down next to someone at a weekly common meal and spontaneously troubleshoot how to handle a rude boss or health problem than it is to call an equally stressed friend in hopes that it is a moment when he or she can talk. Matthew Brashears, an assistant professor of sociology at Cornell University, who conducted the research, told NBC News: “Discussion partners provide both emotional support and ideas for how to solve problems, so a shrinking discussion network may lead to more stress and poorer outcomes.”
Cohousing also can provide a safety net at times of natural disasters like heat waves or hurricanes. Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist, has found that the tight-knit bonds that are formed set these neighborhoods apart — more so, even, than money or preparedness — in effectively surviving such calamities.
Evidence of these benefits and others has mostly been anecdotal, at least in the United States, but it is drawing new attention from social scientists, some of whom have created a national Cohousing Research Network. A study they conducted in 2011 found that 96 percent of people interviewed who lived in cohousing reported an improved quality of life; 75 percent felt their physical health was better than others their age; and 96 percent had voted in the 2008 presidential election.
Angela Sanguinetti, the director of the network and a postdoctoral researcher at University of California, Davis, recently published a paper in The Journal of Environmental Psychology on a survey she did of 559 cohousers. They reported a greater connection to nature based on two different widely used scales. (Many cohousers build sustainably, often using solar panels and other techniques that meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.)
Heidi Berggren, an associate professor of political science and women’s and gender studies at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, found that interdependent living often coincides with greater involvement in civic or political action, or both, including voting at twice the rate of the average American. Her research was recently published in Social Science Quarterly.
While the research of both Sanguinetti and Berggren suggests that cohousing could benefit society as a whole, there is little public support for it. One reason may be that the majority of those who benefit from cohousing, so far, have been white and relatively affluent. Susan Friedland, the executive director oft Satellite Affordable Housing Associates, an Oakland-based nonprofit organization, was part of a team that built a cohousing community designated affordable housing in Sebastopol, Calif., in a project funded by the federal government as well as private dollars. She said the federal support latter hamstrung them in many ways.
“Federal fair housing policies are in place for good reason — to prevent discrimination,” she said. “But they also prevent us from giving preference to people who want to live in cohousing or involve low-income residents early in the design process.”
As a result, Petaluma Avenue Homes, as it’s called, has had a mix of people, some of whom love the cohousing aspect, and some of whom are understandably lukewarm to the experience, quite possibly because they’ve been subjected to the obligatory bureaucratic requirements and vetting often required of the poor by government agencies.
Nevertheless, Friedland retains faith in the concept. “Developers, architects, builders, we could all learn from the design principles of cohousing — the common house, moving the parking out of the central space, having the front porches, the centrality of the gardening. All of these are based on human experience and a balance of privacy and connectivity.”
Of course another formidable hurdle is how difficult it is to predict the dynamics of a complex group. Many cohousing communities fall apart early on because they fail to agree on principles, practices and finances.
“Life together hasn’t been a Cinderella story,” Kate Maddeen Yee, a founding member of Temescal Commons Cohousing in Oakland, Calif., has written. “It’s not easy, hanging in there with one’s fellow cohousers, despite disagreements, disappointments and disillusionment. Yet therein lies the reward: In our time together, my neighbors and I have learned a thing or two about how to not only create, but negotiate our common life with more ease and compassion.”
Twenty-five years in, although the experiment is still small scale, it has yielded a generation of Americans who grew up in cohousing. Many are evangelical about the ways in which the experience has shaped who they are.
Ravenna Koenig, now 26, grew up in Vashon Island Cohousing in Washington. “It taught me communication,” she says, “not just as a tool, but as a value. When you share your home with 17 other families, all those conversations that you’d normally just have with your spouse or your kids — about what to do when two kids from different families get in a fight, or whether to prioritize filling potholes or weeding the garden first — those conversations become much bigger. You have to learn how to articulate what you want, and empathize harder than you ever thought you could.”September 20th, 2016
India’s largest skateboarding park isn’t in a big city, it’s in a small village in Madhya Pradesh.
A sport which has long been identified with urban neighbourhoods across the world, is being used in a village in central India as a trigger for social change. Ulrike Reinhard – a German national – established a skate park in Janwar, Madhya Pradesh in February 2015, with the help of a few Indian and international skateboarding organisations.
The region to which the village belongs is notorious for being one of the most socially and economically backward areas of the country. Untouchability, gender inequality, illiteracy, and alcoholism are rampant here. Through the voices of Ulrike and the children of the village, the film documents how the skate park is gradually changing the social fabric of the village and addressing some of its most deep rooted issues.
Thanks to Aaron CoyesSeptember 16th, 2016
Word Painting (Wind), 2016, flashe, ink, pencil, paper on canvas, 213.4 x 182.9 cm / 84 x 72 in,
By Robbie O’Halloran
The Glaze London Published: September 14, 2016
To read the critic Clement Greenberg writing in 1948 that “…the cubist tradition may enjoy a new efflorescence in this country (America)…” is to be reminded that American art was, until well into the 20th century, still looking over its shoulder at Europe. This ‘efflorescence’ never did occur, unless Greenberg had in mind some kind of sublimated re-presentation of cubism, on a larger scale perhaps – a scale befitting the art of an emergent superpower.
David Korty (born, California, 1971) is painting at a vast remove from a time when the futures of clearly identifiable movements in art were the subjects of earnest debate. If the current series of paintings on show at Sadie Coles employs visual devices familiar to us from the work of a range of cubist and post-cubist artists from the past, then it presents these devices in a way which has been researched. His work is cool, in the sense that it does not break a sweat or leave itself exposed to anything so compromising as spontaneity. Accidents, happy or unwanted, have likely happened during the period leading up to the commencement of the series proper, before the major choices involving colour, text, scale, and motifs had been made. The resulting work is sharp, consistent, and imposing.
Korty’s previous series, Blue Shelves, which was shown at the gallery in early 2014, was a departure of sorts from earlier series. In Blue Shelves we saw the artist choose between figuration and the cubist elements which had increasingly threatened to take over his canvases. The Blue Shelves paintings took these cubistic fragments, and other elements, and presented them to us in a literal way; a select range of hyper-modernist iconography in tiered arrangements, reminiscent of Victorian display cases or a classical frieze. The iconography ‘on display’, or the motifs if you prefer, were doubly flattened in the Blue Shelves series in their manner of presentation to the viewer, through the inky monochrome in which they were drawn, and by the opacity of the blue against which they stood, no single motif standing out beyond another. The present series takes many of the characteristics of the Blue Shelves: the stacked presentation of motifs against an unyielding blue ground, a careful arrangement of geometric shapes, and an overall vibration of modernism. These almost centreless arrangements – I say almost because, not considering the balanced distribution of motifs in general, they do have a very evident centre of gravity in so far as they are rooted to the bottom of the canvas – are shaped by a highly distilled sense of cubist space. But equally noticeable in both this and the previous series is the craft evident in the way they have been put together, and in the deft and practised handling of paint and collage. If Greenberg’s efflorescence had emerged, it would doubtless have had to look, of necessity, as sophisticated as this.
With this series Korty is hardly experimenting in the way the early cubist were. He is not wrestling with forms which are radical or new. By deciding to invest more of his creative effort in the exploration of high modernism and its images, nowadays more often than not recognisable to us in ghostly echoes, the artist has found a potential vehicle for series after series of paintings. There is always the risk of crossing the line into unrewarding repetition, but this is mitigated by highly skilful and subtle variation from canvas to canvas. The vocabulary of motifs the artist has chosen to use is guided by an all-over intent to compose the space in a very cubist way. As with proto-cubist painting, balance is regularly threatened by discord as shapes nudge each other and burst out here and there like exclamations. But the overall composition holds. No clusters of motifs dominate which might disrupt the overall syncopated balance. Cubism after all had structural conventions of its own which led to a cubist ‘look’, and Korty has harnessed the essence of this look.
Another subtle development here is a more comprehensive use of text compared with previous work. There were textual elements here and there in the Blue Shelves series, but in this current series text has become central. The paintings do have individual titles, such as ‘Time’, ‘Wind’, ‘Tulips’ or ‘Horizon’- words which appear somewhere within the proliferations of text in each painting of the same title. The common master title for each painting in the series however is ‘Word Painting’. Text as it was used in early cubist paintings was parodically mundane in origin. Words such as ‘vin’ or ‘journal’, often fragmented and used as objects within the painting, reinforced the sense that radical changes were happening in the midst of so much bourgeois comfort. Korty follows suit with his use as a visual component of non-committal fragments of text; fragments which are subject, just like any other motif in the painting, to the forces of compositional arrangement and rearrangement. A recurring manipulation of text in the Word Paintings is the division of a word by splicing it with part of another. Then there is the mirroring of words in their entirety. Both uses of text might indicate a preoccupation with duality or the reverse side of a thing, a word being a thing in this case. If one of cubism’s aims was to attempt to show all sides of an object on a single plane, then the Word Paintings seem to be trying to show us text from all angles.
Again, Korty stays true to the cubists in his usage of motifs, including text as a visual motif. There are further hints at the type of cubism the artist has studied and drawn from for his own paintings. These sources are even more apparent when we look at a series of more colourful canvases Korty exhibited in the Night Gallery in Los Angeles last year. In these closely related works the influence is evident of a more genteel cubism à la Picasso’s Three Musicians of 1921 for example. Figuration again becomes an issue as the fragments of earlier manifestations of cubism begin to coalesce once more to form rudimentary but discernible figures.
What is it that draws artists back repeatedly to those iconic moments in cubism and other products of modernism? Perhaps the attraction of these forms, which are no longer new, is the challenge of trying to understand the rupture that they signified when they first came about. The fascination cubism still holds for some artists may not nowadays rest on all of the same ideas that drove the movement when it first emerged. Nonetheless, it can translate well into a contemporary context. Art forms considered by many to be irrelevant should only perhaps be labelled dead in so far as they no longer constitute an end in themselves, but can still be used as a springboard for something entirely new.September 14th, 2016
BY FERRIS JABR
NY Times Published: SEPT. 14, 2016
On a warm, clear evening in March, with the sun still hanging above the horizon, Cassandra Quave climbed aboard a jalapeño-green 4-by-4 and started to drive across her father’s ranch in Arcadia, Fla. Surveying the landscape, most people would have seen a homogenous mat of pasture and weeds punctuated by the occasional tree. Quave saw something quite different: a vast botanical tapestry, rich as a Persian rug. On a wire fence, a Smilax vine dangled menacingly pointed leaves, like a necklace of shark’s teeth. Beneath it, tiny wild daisies and mint ornamented the grass with pink tassels and purple cornets. Up above, on the sloping branches of oak trees, whiskery bromeliads, Spanish moss and the gray fronds of resurrection fern tangled in a miniature jungle all their own.
Each of these species intrigued Quave enough to merit a pause, a verbal greeting, a photo. An ethnobotanist based at Emory University in Atlanta, Quave, 38, has an unabashed fondness for all citizens of the kingdom plantae. But on this evening, her attention lingered on certain species more than others: those with the power to heal, with the potential to help prevent a looming medical apocalypse.
Quave parked near the edge of a pond crowded with the overlapping parasols of water lilies. Here and there a green stem rose from the water, capped with a round yellow flower bud, like the antenna of some submerged mutant. Alligators had attacked dogs and ducks around here in the past. “But don’t worry,” Quave said, tracing the pond’s perimeter. “If we see one, I’m going to shoot it.” She wore lightweight cargo pants, a black tank top, a paisley bandanna wrapped around her head and a .357 Magnum revolver strapped to her hip.
After Quave gave the all-clear, her colleague Kate Nelson and I pulled on some tall rubber boots and proceeded cautiously into the water. I repeatedly plunged a shovel into the pond’s viscous floor of gray mud, just beneath the tenacious roots of a water lily — species name: Nuphar lutea — working it like a lever to loosen the plant as Nelson tugged on its stems. We seemed to be making good progress, until the roots suddenly snapped and Nelson fell backward with a splash. Thirty minutes later we emerged with boots full of water and several intact specimens. “Beautiful!” Quave said. “Hello, lovely.” The roots, which she had not seen properly until now, were large and pale like daikon, though much gnarlier and bristling with a mess of shaggy tendrils. Before this trip to Florida, while reading an old compendium on plants used by Native Americans, Quave had learned that a decoction of N. lutea’s roots could treat chills and fever, and that a poultice of its leaves could heal inflamed sores.
Ethnobotany is a historically small and obscure offshoot of the social sciences, focused on the myriad ways that indigenous peoples use plants for food, shelter, clothing, art and medicine. Within this already-tiny field, a few groups of researchers are now trying to use this knowledge to derive new medicines, and Quave has become a leader among them. Equally adept with a pipette and a trowel, she unites the collective insights of traditional plant-based healing with the rigor of modern laboratory experiments. Over the past five years, Quave has gathered hundreds of therapeutic shrubs, weeds and herbs and taken them back to Emory for a thorough chemical analysis.
By revealing the elemental secrets of these plants, Quave has discovered promising candidates for a new generation of drugs that might help resolve one of the greatest threats to public health today: the fact that an increasing number of disease-causing bacteria are rapidly evolving immunity to every existing antibiotic. Without effective antibiotics, common bacterial diseases that are curable today will become impossible to treat; childbirth, routine surgeries and even the occasional nick could turn lethal. The widespread emergence of resistant bacteria already claims 700,000 lives a year globally. Experts conservatively predict that by 2050, they will kill 10 million annually — one person every three seconds. “We’re standing on the precipice of a post-antibiotic era,” Quave says. “We just haven’t fallen off yet.”
Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, bacteria are beside you, on you and within you. And not just a few bacteria, but immense communities as dense, diverse and entangled as a rain forest. Relationships within these microbial societies are so intricate and volatile that they make more archetypal ecological associations — the cheetah and gazelle, the honeybee and flower — seem cartoonish in comparison. Depending on how many of its own kind are present and who else is around, and on the available territory and food, a given bacterial species will ignore, assist or obliterate its microbial neighbors. To cope with such a mercurial existence, bacteria have evolved an astonishing array of chemical lures, signals and weapons. In the early 20th century, scientists discovered that some of these molecules, if isolated and replicated en masse, could wipe out certain disease-causing bacteria. In their modern forms, antibiotics appear entirely artificial. But most of them come from nature. We did not so much invent antibiotics as borrow them from the very creatures we were hoping to overpower.
Between the 1940s and 1960s, the golden age of antibiotic discovery, researchers and pharmaceutical companies harvested such molecules from soil microbes and chemically tweaked them into dozens of new commercial drugs. Some antibiotics, most famously penicillin, came from fungi, but soil bacteria were so abundant and so easy to collect that they remained the center of attention. Researchers soon discovered, though, that only about 1 percent of all bacterial species could be grown in sterile laboratory conditions. By the 1970s, scientists had squeezed almost every potential drug out of this small circle of amenable microbes. In subsequent decades, many large pharmaceutical companies turned away from nature as a source of antibiotics, diverting resources to the promising new field of synthetic drug development.
Combinatorial chemistry, which emerged in the 1980s and was adopted by the pharmaceutical industry in the 1990s, enabled chemists to rapidly generate immense libraries of potentially novel drugs by mixing and matching their molecular building blocks. Ultimately, however, human chemists have been unable to emulate the ingenuity and complexity of organic molecules produced by eons of evolution. “The kind of evolution that happens in living things gives rise to unusual chemistry that is not straightforward to synthesize,” says Simon Gibbons, a medicinal phytochemist at University College London. “Nature is a superchemist. It’s been doing this for a lot longer than we or even mammals have been around. Plants have been doing this for about 400 million years.” That puts people — even very smart people — at a competitive disadvantage. Cedric Pearce, chief executive of the fungi-based drug development company Mycosynthetix, puts it this way: “Nature creates extremely effective but extraordinarily complex molecular structures that a chemist would look at and say, ‘Now, why would I ever think to design that?’ ”
Only a handful of truly novel antibiotics have made it to market since 1980. In the past two decades, Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Company, Bristol-Myers Squibb and other big-name drug companies have downsized or closed their antibiotic-research programs. The pharmaceutical industry lost interest not only because of the disappointment of synthetic chemistry as an engine for discovery but also because antibiotics are simply less profitable than drugs for more persistent conditions like cancer, depression and high cholesterol. Meanwhile, the world indulged in the existing array of antibiotics in such a reckless fashion that it’s hard to know where to place blame. Physicians are just as guilty of overprescribing antibiotics — even to mollify hypochondriacs — as patients are of demanding the drugs too often. Farmers grew accustomed to overmedicating livestock because a steady supply of antibiotics supposedly pre-empted infection and encouraged vigorous growth.
All those antibiotics were not simply treating isolated people and animals; they were transforming our shared ecosystems. Antibiotics fundamentally alter the invisible microbial landscapes in us, on us and all around us. Although antibiotics are designed to be as lethal as possible to dangerous bacteria, there are often a few inherently resilient microbes that survive and proliferate, passing on their genes — and grit — to their offspring. As subsequent generations of these microbial gladiators endure further onslaughts of drugs, they evolve even greater resilience, improving their defenses against antibiotics and sometimes spreading these adaptations throughout the microbial universe through the promiscuous exchange of DNA. By flooding our bodies, farms and hospitals with inordinate amounts of antibiotics — obliterating the weak and sparing the strong — we created exactly the kind of ruthless ecological arena most likely to drive the evolution of resistance.
With the world’s cabinet of useful antibiotics almost empty, scientists are rushing to discover replacements in a diverse set of natural resources. Some researchers are trying to mine the untapped potential of those noncooperative soil bacteria, devising new kinds of growth chambers that might allow unstudied species to thrive in the lab. Others are genetically engineering microbes to produce little-known compounds that could be useful for making drugs. Still others are scavenging the native antibiotics in ocean life, fungi and insects. “We’re at the end of the current era of antibiotics, and it’s getting really scary,” says Kendra Rumbaugh, a microbiologist at Texas Tech University who specializes in wound infections. “We’ve gotten all of the low-hanging fruit, and we’re going to have to work a lot harder. We have to go to the ends of the earth — the ocean, the ice shelf, the rain forest — anywhere we possibly can to find new natural products.”
No single strategy is likely to be sufficient, but ethnobotany offers a few distinct advantages. Instead of relying on random screenings of living creatures — an arbitrary scoop of soil or seawater — it is the only strategy that benefits from a pre-made guide to some of nature’s most potent drugs, honed by thousands of years of trial and error in traditional medicine. And as far as organic drug factories go, it’s difficult to beat the complexity and ingenuity of plants. Plants are nature’s chemical wizards. If a plant finds itself in an unfavorable situation — feasted on by pests, ignored by pollinators — it cannot kick up its roots and relocate. Instead, plants regulate the chemistry of their environment, perpetually suffusing the ground, air and their own tissues with molecular cocktails and bouquets intended to increase their chances of survival and reproduction.
The story of the malaria drug artemisinin is one of the most compelling testaments to the antimicrobial power of plants. In 1967, Mao Zedong initiated a secret military project to discover new treatments for malaria, which is caused by mosquito-borne microorganisms known as Plasmodia. The Vietnam War was raging, and China’s allies in North Vietnam were losing soldiers to the disease. These outbreaks were made worse by the fact that Plasmodia had developed resistance to chloroquine and other antimalarial drugs then in use.
Mao’s project recruited 500 scientists to find a new cure using two chief tactics: synthetic chemistry and ethnobotany based on traditional Chinese medicine. By analyzing ancient medical texts and more than 2,000 herbal remedies, the phytochemist Tu Youyou and her team identified a plant supposedly brimming with antimalarial compounds: sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua), a member of the daisy family that looks a bit like chamomile. Upon initial testing, the plant did not perform well. But a fourth-century handbook of prescriptions provided a vital insight: To extract the plant’s medicinal properties, it should be steeped in relatively cold water, rather than boiled like tea. Subsequent research identified wormwood’s primary active compound, which was eventually developed into artemisinin, one of the most successful treatments for malaria in history. In 2015, Tu received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Growing up in Arcadia, Quave spent just as much time recuperating in hospital beds as she did in rough-and-tumble play outdoors. She was born with several deformities in her right leg: Her femur was much shorter than it should have been, and some of the bones in her ankle, as well as her entire fibula, were missing. When she was 3, surgeons amputated her right leg at the shin’s midpoint. A few days later, while she was recovering at home, her stub began to stink like “a dead rotting animal,” she recalls. Although doctors had told her mother not to remove the bandage under any circumstances, she unwrapped it to discover a wound with the consistency of Jell-O pudding. An emergency trip to the hospital revealed a staph infection in the bone and gangrene in the flesh. She underwent another surgery to excise the diseased tissue and spent months recovering at the hospital, periodically soaking in blood-red baths of Betadine, a rubber ducky floating on the surface.
As a toddler, she got around on a tricycle and a makeshift scooter — a carpeted board with wheels — until receiving her first prosthetic leg and foot, which she continually upgraded as she grew. Her disability never prevented her from exploring the outdoors with her sister and friends: They would climb trees, ride horses, chase goats and come back home covered in fire ant bites and mud and cow dung, so filthy they had to be hosed down. One time, Quave tried to drive her four-wheeler up a steep pile of dirt, rolling off and burning the back of her knee on the motor. Terrified of her mother’s ire, she kept the injury a secret, soothing herself with the cool, slimy pulp of a backyard aloe plant.
At school, Quave loved the sciences, and by the time she got to Emory for college, she was determined to be a surgeon. “I had been around medicine so much,” she says. “I wanted to emulate the doctors who had treated me.” So she proceeded on the pre-med track as a double major in biology and anthropology. In the spring of her junior year, to fill some vacant space in her schedule, she took a class on tropical ecology, which introduced her to ethnobotany.
Botanical medicine, Quave learned, not only predates civilization — it is older than humanity itself. Many animals appear to self-medicate with plants: In Panama, members of the raccoon family known as coatis rub minty tree resin through their fur to deter fleas, ticks and lice, and some great apes and monkeys swallow mildly toxic leaves seemingly to fight infestations of parasitic worms. Our earliest human ancestors continued such traditions, and until relatively recently, plants were our primary source of medicine. A Sumerian cuneiform tablet dating to circa 3,000 B.C. lists 15 prescriptions, many of which are made from plants — myrtle, thyme, willow — mixed with honey, beer or wine. The Aztecs searched far-off lands for new medicinal plants, returning with their roots carefully cocooned in balls of dirt. Between 50 and 70 A.D., while traveling with Emperor Nero’s armies, the Greek surgeon Dioscorides learned how to make balms, elixirs and anesthetics from about 600 plants, like peppermint, hemlock and cannabis. He published his findings in a pharmacopoeia eventually known as “De Materia Medica,” a standard reference for the next 1,500 years.
When European explorers infiltrated the lush New World at the end of the 15th century, they started a revolutionary era of botanical cross-pollination across the seven seas. The Columbian exchange introduced Europe not just to new foods and flavors but also to novel medicines, like the bark of the cinchona tree, which was eventually developed into quinine to treat malaria. It was not until the late 19th century — as medical knowledge advanced and appreciation for indigenous cultures increased — that ethnobotany as a formal discipline began to take shape. Starting in 1941, the American biologist Richard E. Schultes, often regarded as the father of modern ethnobotany, spent 12 years living alongside indigenous peoples in the northwest Amazon Basin, participating in their rituals and ingesting numerous therapeutic and psychoactive plants. After returning to America, he trained several generations of ethnobotanists at Harvard University, some of whom are leaders in the field today.
Although ethnobotany and the longstanding co-evolution with plants that preceded it have provided us with some of our most essential medicines, their purified and generic final forms are so divorced from their origins that most of us are oblivious to this immense botanical debt. Aspirin is based on a compound found in the perennial herb meadowsweet; pseudoephedrine was inspired by the use of the dryland shrub Ephedra sinica in traditional Chinese medicine; morphine, codeine, thebaine and other opiates are still made from poppies; and many anticancer drugs come from plants, like vincristine and vinblastine, both extracted from the Madagascar periwinkle. As of 2003, at least 25 percent of modern medicines were derived from plants, yet only a tiny fraction of the estimated more than 50,000 medicinal plants used around the globe have been studied in the lab.
Quave’s personal discovery of ethnobotany culminated in two self-organized trips to a research station in Peru. There, she met a curandero — a traditional healer — named Don Antonio, who took her to villages of palm-thatched huts along the banks of the Napo River. Because village children drank unfiltered river water there, they were perpetually infected with large numbers of parasitic worms known as helminths, which live in the intestines and feast on blood. Although the Peruvian government had established a few small pharmacies to provide anti-helminthic drugs and other medicines, they were too distant and too poorly stocked to be of reliable benefit.
Don Antonio knew another way to dispel the parasites, using a natural remedy ubiquitous in the Amazon. He cut into the bark from one of the numerous fig trees growing in and around the villages, and a milky emulsion seeped out. Ingesting too much could cause severe cramping, but at the right dose it was highly effective. Don Antonio had learned this remedy from his family, who had trained him in plant-based healing from the age of 7. Since the introduction of pharmacies selling Western pills, however, much of traditional medicine had fallen into disrepute. Don Antonio was a healer by training, but history had reduced him to an entertainer in practice. The research station employed him to give talks to visiting scientists and tourists and to maintain a garden of medicinal plants that rarely grew into anything more than ornaments.
“That trip caused a shift in my worldview and in how I thought about medicine,” Quave told me. Even in the jungle, the dominance of modern Western medicine was overwriting vast stores of knowledge about powerful tonics hidden in surrounding ecosystems. “There’s chemical warfare around all of us all the time — in plants. When you’re really embedded in nature, you can see that.”
On a sunny afternoon, about halfway through the two-week field expedition in Florida, Quave, Nelson and I gathered in a circle to chop up several bags of gray tree branches studded with crinkled leaves and pale green flowers shaped like tiny beehives — the limbs of a wax myrtle, which has been used in traditional medicine to treat fevers, diarrhea and infections. Quave sat on an overturned bucket, the casing of her prosthetic leg partially exposed: a 3-D-printed calf-shaped silver shell with a lacy pattern of steampunk flourishes. She held a pair of garden clippers in one hand, which flashed through the air as she gesticulated, discussing her life after college and the botanical antibiotics she has discovered so far.
Quave’s trip to the Amazon was so inspiring that upon graduating from Emory, she turned down her acceptances to medical school and pursued ethnobotany instead. After working as an ethnobotanical research assistant in Ginestra, a tiny village in southern Italy; earning a Ph.D. in biology at Florida International University in 2008; and completing postdoctoral fellowships, Quave landed her current job as a medical ethnobotanist and assistant professor of dermatology at Emory in 2013. She has conducted most of her fieldwork with traditional healers in rural regions of Italy, Sicily, Albania and Kosovo. Quave has learned, for example, that leaving a bottle of olive oil and St. John’s wort to steep in the sun produces a scarlet solution that heals burn wounds, that immature green walnut can treat fungal infections and that the evergreen shrub Daphne gnidium can stop bleeding and rid dogs of fleas.
Around the globe, as people continue to abandon the countryside for urban areas, such botanical cures are increasingly forgotten or dismissed as old wives’ tales — and certainly some of them are. But to dismiss all of them, Quave thinks, would be a terrible oversight. “We’re showing it isn’t witchcraft or voodoo medicine,” she says. “It actually has some biological function.” In southern Italy, Quave discovered that healers use elmleaf blackberry to treat boils and abscesses. She gathered a few bags of blackberry roots, sliced and dried the samples, vacuum-sealed them in plastic bags and shipped them back to her lab in Atlanta, where her colleagues ground them to a powder in a mill and extracted organic molecules using various solvents. When they added different combinations of blackberry molecules to brothy wells of MRSA — a particularly antibiotic-resistant species of Staphylococcus bacteria — the botanical extracts did not kill the microbes as typical antibiotics do. Rather, they prevented the bacteria from forming slimy, intractable mats called biofilms, which allow them to adhere to living tissues and medical devices like catheters in hospitals.
And that, Quave says, is exactly the kind of antibiotic that can foil the evolution of resistance. A few lone bacteria drifting about are not particularly worrisome. It’s when pathogenic microbes team up that they become a greater threat. Bacteria rely on a form of chemical communication known as quorum-sensing: When they form a critical mass, they start churning out toxins, exchanging genes for antibiotic resistance and protecting themselves with a thick shell of sugar molecules that are impermeable to many drugs. But if an antibiotic could disrupt bacteria’s ability to collaborate, instead of killing them outright, it could render them more vulnerable and “sidestep resistance,” as Quave puts it. “It’s like a magician’s trick. You’re distracting the bacteria, saying, ‘Look over here!’ Meanwhile your own immune system can clear away the microbes.” Because such an antibiotic would not be directly responsible for the microbes’ death, there would be much weaker evolutionary pressure to develop resistance against it. “Ever since Fleming discovered penicillin, we’ve been in the mind-set that we need to kill microbes,” Quave says. “What we need to do is find a balance.”
Recently, Quave and her research team have discovered that an extract of Brazilian peppertree berries — an invasive species common in many warmer parts of the United States — prevents MRSA from forming skin lesions in mice and shrinks biofilms formed by the bacteria. “I really believe these kind of inhibitors are a major part of the solution to antibiotic resistance,” Quave says. “We can shut down bacteria’s most dangerous machinery without killing them.” She envisions using such drugs as prophylactics in surgeries with a high infection risk, or in combination with other antimicrobials if a serious infection is already established.
Given such promise and the desperate need for new antibiotics, you might think that the path from lab to pharmacy would be expedient. It is anything but. In many cases, plant-based remedies work best as complex mixtures of many distinct molecules, as opposed to a highly refined one- or two-molecule extract. In the past decade, the Food and Drug Administration has approved just two commercial botanical drugs: Veregen, a medley of green-tea-leaf compounds used to treat genital warts, and Fulyzaq, an antidiarrheal derivative of tree resin with so many molecular constituents that some remain unidentified. Despite these successes, there is continued opposition in the pharmaceutical industry to developing complex botanicals because they are perceived as too messy and too difficult to evaluate and standardize for mass production. University scientists often rely on drug companies to fund the costly and time-consuming clinical trials required for approval from the F.D.A., and major pharmaceutical companies have little interest in antibiotics. If a candidate antibiotic is some motley herbal treatment — if it has the whiff of mumbo-jumbo folklore — the opposition is stronger still.
The difficulties don’t end with regulators. Per the ethics of their field, ethnobotanists would also need to ensure that some of the profits from drug sales reach the people who originally developed a traditional botanical remedy. In 1992, more than 150 governments signed the Convention on Biological Diversity, a treaty establishing that nations retain sovereign rights over their indigenous medicines and that such resources should be shared only after mediation of equitable benefits.
But above all else, the apathy of the pharmaceutical industry remains the biggest immediate roadblock. “The odds are sometimes disheartening,” she admits. “But this is my field, and I’m not going to abandon ship because today the market is not supporting antibiotic research. In the near future they’ll have to. Western medicine will stop without antibiotics.”
Consider, for instance, that over the past eight years, Thailand, Cambodia and other Asian countries have reported increasingly common cases of artemisinin-resistant malaria. Yet a recent study demonstrates that feeding rodents sweet wormwood leaves in their entirety — as opposed to a synthesized derivative — overcomes this resistance. The modern, stripped-down version of this ancient medicine may very well sacrifice some beneficial chemical synergy present in the whole plant.
If Quave is right, the impending medical crisis will eventually jump-start antibiotic research and development. But it can take more than a decade for a standard antibiotic to transition from discovery to pharmacy, let alone an entirely novel concoction or seemingly convoluted treatment. Meanwhile, we will be stuck with a dwindling stock of extant antibiotics, our only recourse against increasingly armored pathogens.
In the early evening of our penultimate day in Florida, while driving along the edge of an orchard, with the scent of orange blossoms wafting through the car’s open windows and the lime-green sparks of fireflies blinking around us, Quave suddenly cried out to stop the car. She flung open the door, rushed forward and stooped to inspect a small rosette of dandelionlike leaves surrounding a few stalks furred with teensy maroon flowers. Most people would have regarded the three-inch-tall plant as a completely unremarkable weed, if they noticed it at all. Quave was rapt.
During her two-week expedition in the marshes, wetlands and forests of Florida, Quave had already collected close to 175 species — primrose willow, carnivorous sundew, toothache grass, gallberry, black nightshade — but she could not pass this one up. “This is Plantago!” she said. “It’s known for applications for skin infections.” One species of the plant, she later explained, can stop a bleeding wound; another can heal abscesses. “It’s easy to dig up,” she continued, turning back to the car. “Let’s get some bags. Grab as much as you can.”September 14th, 2016
By Paul Krugman
NY Times Published: SEPT. 12, 2016
First of all, let’s get this straight: The Russian Federation of 2016 is not the Soviet Union of 1986. True, it covers most of the same territory and is run by some of the same thugs. But the Marxist ideology is gone, and so is the superpower status. We’re talking about a more or less ordinary corrupt petrostate here, although admittedly a big one that happens to have nukes.
I mention all of this because Donald Trump’s effusive praise for Vladimir Putin — which actually reflects a fairly common sentiment on the right — seems to have confused some people.
On one side, some express puzzlement over the spectacle of right-wingers — the kind of people who used to yell “America, love it or leave it!” — praising a Russian regime. On the other side, a few people on the left are anti-anti-Putinists, denouncing criticism of Mr. Trump’s Putin-love as “red-baiting.” But today’s Russia isn’t Communist, or even leftist; it’s just an authoritarian state, with a cult of personality around its strongman, that showers benefits on an immensely wealthy oligarchy while brutally suppressing opposition and criticism.
And that, of course, is what many on the right admire.
Am I being unfair? Could praise for Russia’s de facto dictator reflect appreciation of his substantive achievements? Well, let’s talk about what the Putin regime has, in fact, accomplished, starting with economics.
Mr. Putin came to power at the end of 1999, as Russia was recovering from a severe financial crisis, and his first eight years were marked by rapid economic growth. This growth can, however, be explained with just one word: oil.
For Russia is, as I said, a petrostate: Fuels account for more than two-thirds of its exports, manufactures barely a fifth. And oil prices more than tripled between early 1999 and 2000; a few years later they more than tripled again. Then they plunged, and so did the Russian economy, which has done very badly in the past few years.
Mr. Putin would actually have something to boast about if he had managed to diversify Russia’s exports. And this should have been possible: The old regime left behind a large cadre of highly skilled workers. In fact, Russian émigrés have been a key force behind Israel’s remarkable technology boom — and the Putin government appears to have no trouble recruiting talented hackers to break into Democratic National Committee files. But Russia wasn’t going to realize its technology potential under a regime where business success depends mainly on political connections.
So Mr. Putin’s economic management is nothing to write home about. What about other aspects of his leadership?
Russia does, of course, have a big military, which it has used to annex Crimea and support rebels in eastern Ukraine. But this muscle-flexing has made Russia weaker, not stronger. Crimea, in particular, isn’t much of a conquest: it’s a territory with fewer people than either Queens or Brooklyn, and in economic terms it’s a liability rather than an asset, since the Russian takeover has undermined tourism, its previous mainstay.
An aside: Weirdly, some people think there’s a contradiction between Democratic mocking of the Trump/Putin bromance and President Obama’s mocking of Mitt Romney, four years ago, for calling Russia our “No. 1 geopolitical foe.” But there isn’t: Russia has a horrible regime, but as Mr. Obama said, it’s a “regional power,” not a superpower like the old Soviet Union.
Finally, what about soft power, the ability to persuade through the attractiveness of one’s culture and values? Russia has very little — except, maybe, among right-wingers who find Mr. Putin’s macho posturing and ruthlessness attractive.
Which brings us back to the significance of the Putin cult, and the way this cult has been eagerly joined by the Republican nominee for president.
There are good reasons to worry about Mr. Trump’s personal connections to the Putin regime (or to oligarchs close to that regime, which is effectively the same thing.) How crucial has Russian money been in sustaining Mr. Trump’s ramshackle business empire? There are hints that it may have been very important indeed, but given Mr. Trump’s secretiveness and his refusal to release his taxes, nobody really knows.
Beyond that, however, admiring Mr. Putin means admiring someone who has contempt for democracy and civil liberties. Or more accurately, it means admiring someone precisely because of that contempt.
When Mr. Trump and others praise Mr. Putin as a “strong leader,” they don’t mean that he has made Russia great again, because he hasn’t. He has accomplished little on the economic front, and his conquests, such as they are, are fairly pitiful. What he has done, however, is crush his domestic rivals: Oppose the Putin regime, and you’re likely to end up imprisoned or dead. Strong!September 13th, 2016
Paul Pascal Theriault | Baby Stacks
Opening Reception: 9/18/16 2-4PM
“What you need and what you get are not the same, you need something, you want something, and you get something else”
” this is this, huhhh, you make yourself understood, right, look at this here, there it is”
” and your going to see what is going to happen”
” you see what is coming”
” you see what is coming, you see this”
” this little figure is more interesting then she appears to be”
” you see this, this is the little penis”
” you lift it, you extract it”
” ohhh, this little figure is so pretty, I think she’s my daughter”
” you see I know my job ”
” yes it is brilliant”
Louise BourgeoisSeptember 11th, 2016
September 9 – October 15, 2016
Opening: Friday, September 9th, 2016, 6-8PMSeptember 9th, 2016
Henry Taylor, Untitled, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 inches © Henry Taylor
With a New Film by Kahlil JosephSeptember 8th, 2016
Anishinabek Nation members sang as they entered the Standing Rock camp this week. The group traveled from Mount Pleasant, Mich., to join protests. Credit Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times
By JACK HEALY
NY Times Published: SEPT. 8, 2016
NEAR CANNON BALL, N.D. — Verna Bailey stared into the silvery ripples of a man-made lake, looking for the spot where she had been born. “Out there,” she said, pointing to the water. “I lived down there with my grandmother and grandfather. We had a community there. Now it’s all gone.”
Fifty years ago, hers was one of hundreds of Native American families whose homes and land were inundated by rising waters after the Army Corps of Engineers built the Oahe Dam along the Missouri River, part of a huge midcentury public-works project approved by Congress to provide electricity and tame the river’s floods.
To Ms. Bailey, 76, and thousands of other tribal members who lived along the river’s length, the project was a cultural catastrophe, residents and historians say. It displaced families, uprooted cemeteries and swamped lands where tribes grazed cattle, drove wagons and gathered wild grapes and medicinal tea.
That past has now become a poignant backdrop to protests over a $3.7 billion oil pipeline project that would cross a rancher’s land just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation and plunge under a dammed section of the Missouri River. The company building the Dakota Access pipeline across four states and 1,170 miles says it will transport oil safely and reliably. Opponents say a spill or break could poison the river.
The protests have drawn thousands here to the Plains, stirring a new environmental movement for dozens of Native American tribes across the country who are supporting the Standing Rock Sioux’s efforts here to block the pipeline. The fight is nearing a pivotal moment as a federal judge in Washington prepares to rule by Friday on whether to allow or block construction of a section of the pipeline near the tribe’s land.
History, like a river, runs deep here. And residents like Ms. Bailey say the pipeline battle has dredged up old memories and feelings about lost lands and broken treaties with the United States government, as well as their worries about the future of land and water they hold sacred.
“The trauma we deal with today is a residual effect of 1958, when the floods came,” said David Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
The federal government has paid millions in compensation over the years to tribes affected by the dam project, including more than $90 million held for the Standing Rock Sioux. But people here say they are still haunted by the memories of being told to leave their homes and seeing families drift apart. The tribe has spent more than 20 years trying to gain control of 19,000 acres of waterfront land that was taken through eminent domain during dam construction.
“Even though it’s been more than half a century, they still feel this loss,” said Michael L. Lawson, the author of “Dammed Indians,” a history of the government’s dam projects along the Missouri. He said about 56,000 acres of Standing Rock Sioux land had been condemned for the dams and 190 families relocated. Theirs was one of 23 reservations affected by the project.
“Just about every part of their economy and living situation was impacted,” Mr. Lawson said. “They lost their most important resources in the bottom lands.”
For years, the legacy of the dam was perhaps the headline struggle for the Standing Rock Sioux. Now the pipeline has brought widespread attention, intense news media coverage and thousands of environmental pilgrims to this serene stretch of North Dakota.
The Standing Rock Sioux have sued the Army Corps of Engineers, which approved an important permit for the pipeline, saying that building the pipeline would destroy sacred cultural and burial sites and raising concerns that a leak or spill would poison their water supply. The tribe has asked for a preliminary injunction.
The Corps says it reached out extensively to tribes before it gave approval for the Dakota Access pipeline to cross bodies of water, including the Missouri. The Standing Rock Sioux, it says, canceled a meeting to visit the pipeline’s proposed crossing across Lake Oahe. The tribe says it was not properly consulted.
In legal filings, the Corps said the Standing Rock Sioux also could not point to specific sites that would be harmed by the pipeline. A tribal history expert later walked the route of the pipeline, and said he had found stone cairns and rocks arrayed in circles, spirals and other patterns that he said probably marked burial sites.
As the judge’s decision nears, tensions and fears of violence are rising.
Last weekend, protesters upset that pipeline work crews were bulldozing what the tribe calls sacred ceremonial sites broke down a wire fence and surged onto a construction site. The sheriff’s office here in Morton County called it a “riot,” and said protesters had kicked workers, hit them with sticks and sent one to the hospital. Tribal officials say that the demonstrators were provoked, and that six were bitten by guard dogs brought in by the pipeline company’s security guards.
On Thursday, Gov. Jack Dalrymple announced that he was sending about a dozen National Guard troops to help state troopers at a traffic checkpoint about 30 miles up the road from the protest, and that he was putting others on standby. Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier of Morton County said his officers would increase their patrols and their visibility around the demonstration itself.
“The worst fear is that this gets escalated in some way and someone gets hurt,” Sheriff Kirchmeier said in an interview this week. “At some point, there has to be an end game. This can’t be going on for long periods of time.”
A total of 37 people have been arrested on trespassing and other charges, but no one has been charged in connection with the clashes on Saturday. Sheriff Kirchmeier said his office was still investigating.
The protests have attracted activists, actors and politicians. This week, Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential nominee, camped out with protesters and was seen on videos spray-painting a bulldozer that sat at a pipeline construction site. On Wednesday, Morton County officials said they had filed misdemeanor charges of criminal mischief and trespassing against Ms. Stein and her vice-presidential running mate, Ajamu Baraka.
The Texas company behind the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, said that it was operating entirely within the law and its agreements with landowners, and that it had all the necessary state and federal permits to build the pipeline. The company sued the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribal members, accusing them of illegally disrupting the pipeline’s construction.
Theresa Pleets, 81, said she had a deep personal stake in coming out to the protest camp, a field speckled with teepees, campers, tents and fire rings. She grew up in a two-room log house along the Missouri River, where her parents would fill barrels with drinking water. After the river was dammed, she said, her parents were relocated to a small, government-built house.
“I want to beat the Corps,” she said. “I want to win someday.”
The house where Ms. Bailey was born had just one room, she said. She arrived during a January blizzard in 1940, and her grandfather, Albert No Heart Sr., took a horse-drawn sleigh eight miles south to the town of Fort Yates to fetch a midwife, she said. She went away to boarding school, and worked for decades in tribal administrative offices. Now, she said, she tells stories of gathering firewood and wild berries in land that is covered by water.
“My kids don’t believe it,” she said, “when I tell them how things were.”September 8th, 2016
Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Giant Hamburgers), 1993
Acrylic and pencil on bristol, 12 1/2 x 19 1/2 inches © Mark Grotjahn
Sign Exchange 1993-98
September 10 — November 5, 2016
By Charles M. Blow
NY Times Published: SEPT. 8, 2016
It has generally been my experience that when people pepper their speech with the phrase “believe me,” they are not to be believed.
The default position among people of honor — the silent agreement between speaker and listener — is one of truth and trust.
But Donald Trump is not a person of honor.
Presidents lie. Politicians lie. People lie. But Trump lies with a ferocious abandon.
For instance, the fact-checking website PolitiFact found that of the statements by Hillary Clinton that it checked, 22 percent were completely “true” and another 28 percent were “mostly true.”
But Trump is another animal. There is no true equivalency between Trump and Clinton, or between Trump and any other politician, for that matter. Only 4 percent of Trump’s statements that PolitiFact checked were rated as completely “true” and only another 11 percent were even rated as “mostly true.” Seventy percent of Trump’s statements that the site checked were rated as “mostly false,” “false” or “pants on fire,” the site’s worse rating.
The truth shifts beneath Trump like sand. He has no regard for the firmness of fact. For him, fact is as pliant as that Play-Doh he handed out to flood victims in Louisiana.
Indeed, PoltiFact named Trump’s collective “campaign misstatements” the 2015 Lie of the Year, writing:
“It’s the trope on Trump: He’s authentic, a straight-talker, less scripted than traditional politicians. That’s because Donald Trump doesn’t let facts slow him down. Bending the truth or being unhampered by accuracy is a strategy he has followed for years.”
The site quotes from Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal,” in which he says, “People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion.”
In fact, Tony Schwartz was the ghostwriter for that book and in July he blasted Trump in an interview in The New Yorker:
“Schwartz says of Trump, ‘He lied strategically. He had a complete lack of conscience about it.’ Since most people are ‘constrained by the truth,’ Trump’s indifference to it ‘gave him a strange advantage.’”
When introducing a series about “the scale and depth of Donald Trump’s lies,” the magazine’s editor, David Remnick, put it this way:
“Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President, does not so much struggle with the truth as strangle it altogether. He lies to avoid. He lies to inflame. He lies to promote and to preen. Sometimes he seems to lie just for the hell of it. He traffics in conspiracy theories that he cannot possibly believe and in grotesque promises that he cannot possibly fulfill. When found out, he changes the subject — or lies larger.”
And yet in polls like the CNN/ORC poll released Tuesday, Trump leads Clinton on the issue of being honest and trustworthy by 15 percentage points. (I should point out that some have raised questions about the methodology of that poll.)
I believe that this is in large part because we, an irresponsible media, have built a false equivalency in which the choice between Clinton and Trump seems to have equally bad implications, because we have framed it as a choice between a liar and a lunatic.
But this obscures the fact that the lunatic is also a pathological liar of a kind and quality that we have not seen in recent presidential politics and perhaps ever.
Trump is in a category all his own.
Part of the reason for Clinton’s problems is that she is being held to a traditional level of honesty and integrity, as she should be.
But Trump is being held to a wholly different, more flexible standard. When he takes a different position over years or months or days or even hours, that is not simply an innocent evolution, but a flat-out lie.
He alters his positions on a whim, depending on the audience, but the truth is steadfast. It will not accept convenient alteration.
Perhaps even more troubling is that he is prone to making up his own set of false facts. He wildly exaggerated the number of immigrants in this country illegally and “inner city” crime rates. He said President Obama founded ISIS and that “the Obama administration was actively supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq, the terrorist group that became the Islamic State.” He said, “I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering” as the World Trade Center collapsed.
Lies one and all, but that’s just a sampling.
This is not an honest man. This is not a trustworthy man. The fact that people believe he’s honest is a result of a failed media that aims its sincerest critique at Clinton’s deficiencies with the truth, but applies an entertainment standard to Trump that corrects falsehoods but doesn’t castigate him for them.
There is no reasonable explanation or salable excuse for the media’s behavior this presidential cycle. History will look back at this period and it will not be kind to the Fourth Estate. We will all have to one day ask ourselves, “Where was I on Trump and the truth?” Far too many of us will be found wanting.September 8th, 2016
“Eros Island: Knives Please Rise”
September 10th – October 22nd, 2016
reception: Saturday, September 10th, 6 to 8pm
Untitled (pillow, legs, towel)
Ink on paper
24 1/8 x 19 inches; 61 x 48 cm
Bare Shouldered Beauty, Works from 1965 to 1969
September 9 – October 22, 2016
523 W 24 Street
Opening Thursday, September 8, 6 – 8 PM
A Survey of Ceramics: 1970s to the Present
September 8 – October 9, 2016
OPENING RECEPTION: Thursday, September 8, 6-8pmSeptember 8th, 2016
Protesters at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, in North Dakota, on Saturday.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBYN BECK / AFP /
By Bill McKibben
The New Yorker Published: September 6, 2016
This week, thousands of Native Americans, from more than a hundred tribes, have camped out on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, which straddles the border between the Dakotas, along the Missouri River. What began as a slow trickle of people a month ago is now an increasingly angry flood. They’re there to protest plans for a proposed oil pipeline that they say would contaminate the reservation’s water; in fact, they’re calling themselves protectors, not protesters.
Their foe, most directly, is the federal government, in particular the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has approved a path for the pipeline across the Missouri under a “fast track” option called Permit 12. That’s one reason the Dakota Access Pipeline, as it’s known, hasn’t received the attention that, say, the Keystone XL Pipeline did, even though the pipe is about the same length. Originally, the pipeline was supposed to cross the Missouri near Bismarck, but authorities worried that an oil spill there would have wrecked the state capital’s drinking water. So they moved the crossing to half a mile from the reservation, across land that was taken from the tribe in 1958, without their consent. The tribe says the government hasn’t done the required consultation with them—if it had, it would have learned that building the pipeline there would require digging up sacred spots and old burial grounds.
In fact, the blade of a bulldozer cut through some of those burial grounds on Saturday—during a holiday weekend, days before a federal judge is supposed to rule on an emergency petition filed by the tribe which would slow the project down, and immediately after the tribe identified the burial grounds’ locations in a filing to the court. The company building the pipe—Energy Transfer Partners—has already constructed more than half the pipeline, which, when completed, would stretch from Stanley, North Dakota, near the Canadian border, to Patoka, in southern Illinois. It apparently wanted to create facts on the ground in North Dakota—wanted to do so badly enough, it seems, that it was willing to employ a private security force, which used dogs to confront the Native Americans who tried to prevent the desecration of old graves. Tribal officials said that the dogs bit six protesters, including a small child. (The company did not respond to requests for comment, but had previously stated that demonstrators “attacked” their workers and the guard dogs. It has stressed in the past that it has been “constructing this pipeline in accordance with applicable laws, and the local, state and federal permits and approvals we have received.”)
Pictures from that confrontation recall pictures from Birmingham circa 1963. But the historical parallels here run much deeper—they run to the original sins of this nation. The reservation, of course, is where the Native Americans were told to live when the vast lands they ranged were taken by others. The Great Sioux Reservation, formed in the eighteen-sixties, shrunk again and again—in 1980, a federal court said, of the whole sad story, “a more ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealings will never, in all probability, be found in our history.” In the nineteen-fifties and early sixties, the Army Corps of Engineers—the same Army Corps now approving the pipeline—built five large dams along the Missouri, forcing Indian villages to relocate. More than two hundred thousand acres disappeared beneath the water.
Sioux history, and Native American history, is filled with one massacre and battle after another. Most of us have never heard of some of those encounters—the Whitestone, or Inyan Ska, massacre, for instance, not far from the present encampment, where at least three hundred Sioux lost their lives when Brigadier General Alfred Sully attacked men, women, and children feasting after a buffalo hunt. Some we do remember, albeit differently: one man in the camp last week said it was the most diverse gathering of Native Americans “since the Battle of Greasy Grass,” known to the white world as Little Bighorn. In other words, America’s shameful history with its native inhabitants is echoing across these riverbanks this late summer.
“The U.S. government is wiping out our most important cultural and spiritual areas,” LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, whose great-great grandmother survived the Whitestone Massacre, wrote this week. “And as it erases our footprint from the world, it erases us as a people. These sites must be protected, or our world will end, it is that simple. Our young people have a right to know who they are. They have a right to language, to culture, to tradition. The way they learn these things is through connection to our lands and our history.”
The protests have been peaceful and nonviolent. (Some members of the climate advocacy group 350.org, which I founded, are working at the Dakota camp in supporting roles.) And yet the local sheriff told reporters that he’d heard rumors of pipe bombs; it turned out he’d heard rumors about ceremonial peace pipes. After Saturday’s encounter with the guard dogs, the same sheriff said that security personnel were reacting to demonstrators who had “crossed on to private property” and attacked them with “flag poles.” He did not respond to requests for further comment.
Young people on the reservation organized a run across the country this summer to deliver more than a hundred thousand petition signatures to the President asking him to stop the pipeline. They weren’t received at the White House—disappointing, since Obama had actually visited the reservation in 2014. “My Administration is determined to partner with tribes,” he told them then, but so far he’s made no public statement on the Dakota Access pipeline.
All of which is sad, because this case offers the U.S. government the chance to make at least small amends for some of the darkest parts of its official history—to demonstrate that it has absorbed at least a few small lessons from that past.
The events at Standing Rock also allow Americans to realize who some of the nation’s most important leaders really are. The fight for environmental sanity—against pipelines and coal ports and other fossil-fuel infrastructure—has increasingly been led by Native Americans, many of whom are in that Dakota camp today. They speak with real authority—no one else has lived on this continent for the longterm. They see the nation’s history more clearly than anyone else, and its possible future as well. For once, after all these centuries, it’s time to look through their eyes. History offers us no chances to completely erase our mistakes. Occasionally, though, we do get a chance to show we learned something.September 7th, 2016