Book recommendation: Bird Flu, by Michael Greger

I started reading Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching for reasons that had nothing to do with COVID-19. But may I say that it could not be any more relevant to our lives at this particular time?

Dr. Michael Greger does a wonderful job of explaining the science of viruses in general, the history of pandemics (and our political/economic/public health/media responses to them), and the steps that we would need to take to reduce the terrible dangers that pandemic influenza poses to human life, health, economics, national security, and so on. His writing is clear, engaging, and accessible, while being grounded in meticulous research and including copious citations from all sorts of relevant experts around the world.

No joke: this is not good bedtime reading, but it is a great read!

It looks like the full text was available for free on the internet for some time, but that it is temporarily unavailable because Dr. Greger is updating it with new findings about COVID-19 for a new edition, so try checking back to http://www.birdflubook.org/ or https://drgreger.org/pages/selected-writings later to see more about that.

Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington: Digital Justice Gathering

There are 140 million poor and low income people in America. But the interlocking, systemic injustices that create and perpetuate poverty negatively impact us all (in different ways).

It’s gone on far too long. We must ALL unite to fight poverty, not poor people.

The growing awareness of the disproportionate impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic on poor communities and communities of color, as well as the ongoing patterns of police brutality against people of color that have been getting so much more widespread attention recently, are motivating people of conscience to stand up and take action in a variety of ways. Please join us.

Due to the pandemic, the the massive slate of events known as the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington that have long been planned by The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival for June 20-21, 2020 have gone digital. There will be live-streamed speeches (in English, Spanish, and ASL) by all sorts of folks, opportunities to contact elected officials, a virtual rally, voter registration information, and merchandise.

Check out June2020.org for more information about how to get involved. (And be sure to note the impressive, inspiring list of mobilizing partners.)

Juneteenth!

In celebration of Juneteenth (today, 6/19, the day on which we who continue to work toward justice celebrate the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans), the feminist philosophy journal Hypatia has put together a two-part curated collection of previously published work by Black feminist scholars and made it freely available without subscription.

I encourage you to start by checking out Hypatia co-editor Camisha Russell’s introduction, then take a look at the article collections themselves. As Dr. Russell writes there, “Black thought matters.”

Book recommendation: Zoopolis, by Sue Donaldson & Will Kymlicka

I’ve always loved animals, but I don’t always see myself in other people’s vision of what it means to be an animal lover. For instance, I don’t keep pets, and lots of people would expect an animal lover to do so. However, I am a vegan, which might be (and I think should be, but often isn’t) expected of people who self-identify as animal lovers. Plus, I generally love learning about animals more than I love interacting with them, but I do find it deeply painful when I witness harm to animals, even in fiction. And I’m seriously committed to environmentalism, which many people think means choosing what is good for whole species and ecosystems, even if and when that means killing or otherwise harming various individual animals.

I suspect there are a lot of other people out there who love animals in some sense, but that maybe don’t fit into stereotypical ideas about what it means to be an animal lover.

For an awesome book that challenges all of us to rethink what it means to stand in an ethically good relationship to non-human animals, I strongly recommend Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka’s Zoopolis. They don’t frame their book in terms of being by or for animal lovers, (though their work clearly expresses love for animals, along with many more intellectual virtues). Instead, they make a powerful, extended argument that existing academic and activist work regarding animal ethics is limited in key ways that can be overcome by shifting to a political model of human/non-human animal engagement. Here’s some high praise from any philosopher: their insights and arguments really changed my mind about a lot of things!

And (bonus!) this is among the most engaging and accessible books in academic philosophy that I’ve had the pleasure to read. It is one of those unicorns that falls into both the “for fun” and “for work” categories that I often use to mentally sort books. Seriously, check it out.

Book recommendation: Agency, by William Gibson

William Gibson’s newest novel, Agency, has a lot to offer to longtime Gibson fans (like myself) as well people who haven’t previously read his work. You’ve got a cast of uniquely talented characters with fascinating personalities spread across the globe in the not too distant future, quick-witted dialogue, surprising turns of events, brilliant social commentary, and plenty of individual sentences that can captivate your imagination by encapsulating a person, a mood, a place, or a complex event all on their own.

As with other Gibson books, what I could say about the plot won’t do it justice, and might spoil the thrill of … well, just read it.

That said, if you are new to Gibson, don’t expect an escapist departure from the nightmare that we are living. Agency is sure to spark some troubling reflections about our present predicament (however you understand that).

“The Creeps as a Moral Emotion”

Have you ever felt the creeps? I sure have! But it turns out that historically, philosophers have pretty much ignored this emotion, and there are lots of philosophical questions about the creeps and about creepiness that are definitely worth considering.

I had a lot of fun co-writing “The Creeps as a Moral Emotion” with Jeremy Fischer, and the final version of the article has now been published by Ergo! Ergo is an open access academic journal (which means that anyone with an internet connection can find and read the article for free), so hurray for that! 

Co-writing is still pretty rare for philosophers, but bouncing ideas off each other can be invigorating, challenging, and rewarding. I probably wouldn’t commit to doing it if I didn’t already know my co-author pretty well, but based on my experience, I would recommend it as an interesting change of pace for folks who have a track record of productive philosophical exchange.

Ripping off the Band-Aid …

At the end of February, I had fun presenting some of my research about climate ethics at conferences in Atlanta and in Chicago. And I was looking forward to writing a post about those conferences …

And then in early March, COVID-19 threw a wrench in the works. Surprise! I got busy adjusting to online teaching, trying to support my students in a really challenging time, not getting to swim regularly anymore, processing my heightened emotions regarding all sorts of vulnerable people, trying to figure out how best to use my resources in a changing world, and on and on and on.

Every so often, I would imagine myself coming up with something really great to post here. But what kind of “great” was even the right one to aim for? Something clever? Useful? Inspiring? Thought-provoking? Motivating? Cathartic? Darkly humorous? And if I could, for a moment, settle on one of those, how was I to meet that standard in such momentous times?

So I didn’t write here for a while, which is not so unusual for me. But this time, it was because I was letting the hope of perfection prevent me from taking any steps toward my goal. And given all the times I’ve advised students not to do that, I decided to just post something, to just get my first post of the coronavirus era over and done with. The new, replacement hope is that by posting this, I’ll get over the mental hurdle and pave the way for more posts in the future.

(Probably book reviews.)

Fridays for Future

This semester, I’m joining with students and community members at noon every Friday under Ball State’s bell tower as part of the Fridays for Future climate strike movement.

Please join us! The students who are organizing and participating in these events are welcoming, thoughtful, and passionate young people who deserve our support and solidarity.

And thank you to all the passers-by who honk, wave, smile, or otherwise show us their encouragement!

Forward STEPS Sustainability Challenge 2019

Being a part of the Forward STEPS community is one of the best parts of my life in Muncie! Forward STEPS is a relationship-based poverty alleviation initiative of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana; together we (people from all walks of life) work on all sorts of projects that empower people as they move from merely surviving to thriving.

Our “Big View” programming focuses on dismantling the systemic barriers that keep many people under-resourced. One such barrier is the decreasing stability of the climate and other natural systems. We all have a role to play in ensuring that essential resources will be available to future generations, but participating in environmental stewardship activities often takes resources, like time and money, that are in short supply for folks who are struggling just to get by.

We were fortunate to receive some financial support from a few donors who want to support all the members of our community who are interested in developing more sustainable habits. So with their support, I was able to organize and facilitate a whole bunch of activities around the theme of sustainability this fall, and I’ve been just thrilled with what we are able to accomplish together. Trees were planted, resource usage was reduced, lessons were shared, and it felt good to do it all together!

So, if you want to see a poster I made with a more detailed report of what we accomplished together during our Forward STEPS Sustainability Challenge 2019, please click here.

Climate Strike!

Today millions of people around the world acted in solidarity to bring attention to the climate catastrophe and demand climate action now. Want to learn more about the Global Climate Strike? Start here.

I was pleased to be able to support the approximately 10% of my students who engaged in climate activism today instead of coming to class. They wrote me justifications for their choice, so they were doing some philosophy, too!

In addition to participating in a local rally organized by Muncie Resists this afternoon, I’ve been working for the past few weeks to organize a Sustainability Challenge for the members of my favorite community poverty-alleviation group (Forward STEPS) during the month of October. We’re doing some educational programs (including a couple of vegan cooking classes led by yours truly) and making commitments to do various sustainability-promoting activities. If you want to play along with us (for a chance to earn prizes!), just send me an email about how to get involved.