Yale sociologist Justin Farrell’s new book, Billionaire Wilderness: The Ultra-Wealthy and the Remaking of the American West, is an amazing piece of scholarship that provides detailed insight into how wealth concentration is shaping the human (and more-than-human) communities in Teton County, Wyoming, which is both the richest county in the United States and the county with the highest wealth inequality (on various measures).
Farrell’s research, both qualitative and quantitative, is meticulous and presented in clear and accessible prose. The excerpted interviews provide candid (and sometimes stomach-churning) insight into the hearts and minds of both the ultra-wealthy and the working poor whose labor makes their lifestyles possible in Teton County and thereabouts. For various reasons that Farrell thoughtfully articulates, rural communities are under-researched, and accessing the ultra-wealthy for research purposes is challenging. But we can no longer afford to neglect such research and this book provides a model for much work that is yet to be done.
I strongly recommend this valuable book to anyone who is working on or simply interested in issues relating to climate change, conservation, wealth inequality, and/or social justice more broadly.
Many students and teachers interested in sustainability advocate divestment from fossil fuels as a way to defund unsustainable energy practices, take a symbolic stand, and help train new organizers. October’s Philosophers for Sustainability forum, which I’ll be co-leading, will involve thinking through some possibilities and strategies for divestment advocacy:
What strategies are in reach for overworked academics who endorse financial activism but work in settings where most people in power are (currently) indifferent or hostile to institutional divestment? In this forum, I’ll share some ideas from a recent mini-campaign and invite discussion about organizing. We’ll also have time to discuss other sustainability advocacy projects that may feel daunting in scope or low in likelihood of success.
The forum will be held by Zoom on Friday, October 7, 11am-noon ET (eastern USA and Canada time). Email me for the link. We look forward to seeing some of you there!
In my book, philosophy isn’t something you have, but something you do. So philosophers aren’t just thinkers. We are doers.
And there is a lot that we can do, individually and collectively, by strategically using our particular skills, knowledge, and social locations, to help move humanity toward doing a better job of sustaining all the people, other living things, and ecosystems that can be found on this amazing and beautiful planet.
If you’ve already made a habit of choosing the relatively sustainable options in your personal life, one way to level up on your sustainability activism is to join the Philosophers for Sustainability. We’ve got various advocacy teams, workshops, and resources, and we welcome all comers, from casual participants to gung-ho experts and leaders.
Right now, our biggest area of momentum is the APA 2+1 campaign, a plan to shift 1 or 2 of the 3 divisional meetings of the American Philosophical Association each year to an entirely online format, with the in-person meeting(s) rotating between divisions. Implementing this plan would dramatically cut our profession’s greenhouse gas emissions, save money, and make the meetings accessible to a wider range of philosophers.
Please consider signing and sharing the petition, if you aren’t already one of the 689 signatories so far!