Saturday, August 29, 2020

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Richard Wilkinson writes that the key to building back better in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic is to close the gap in income and wealth between the rich and everybody else, with the goal of meeting both material and social needs:
(T)he most potent generators of chronic stress are embedded in the social fabric, in our lives and relationships with one another. Three aspects stand out above others: the damaging effects of low social status, whether that is due to poverty, racism or any other cause; the quality of care in early childhood; and the strongly protective effects of friendship and social integration.

Relationships matter so much because other people can be our best sources of security, comfort and cooperation or our worst rivals. Just as bad relationships are highly stressful, friendship is relaxing and restorative. We have evolved an extraordinary sensitivity to relationships, because getting them right has always been crucial to our survival.

Experiments have shown that it is threats to self-esteem or social status, where other people can judge us negatively, that most reliably raise our stress hormones. These feelings are so potent, causing anything from fury to stomach-clenching shame. Even simple experiments have shown they have serious consequences, including slower wound healing and weaker resistance to infection.
So what can be done to ensure our health and resilience? The key is that class and status, prejudice and discrimination are strengthened by larger income differences. As George Bernard Shaw said: “Inequality of income takes the broad, safe, and fertile plane of human society and stands it on its edge,” with the result that some people are valued very much more than others. The rich are made to seem more superior and the poor more inferior, inequalities in health and in young people’s life chances increase, while social mobility slows.

The picture could hardly be simpler: almost all the problems that we know are related to social status within our society get worse when status differences are increased. If we want a less dysfunctional society and a healthier population, building back better means addressing the scourge of income inequality.
- And Andrew Jackson challenges Chrystia Freeland to pursue the possibility of transformational change, rather than merely trying to move back toward a lost (and unsustainable) status quo ante.

- On that front, Tom Philpott discusses how the U.S.' food supply is needlessly precarious. And Dana Granofsky, Kira Heineck, Steve Lurie and Kwame McKenzie highlight the danger that we could see a new wave of homelessness connected to a resurgence of COVID-19 this fall - even as Jen St. Denis points out the lack of uptake on tiny homes in Vancouver (or elsewhere in Canada) despite the success of the same idea in U.S. cities which have pursued it.

- Finally, Christopher Cheung and Rochelle Baker each report on a push for action against a drug overdose crisis which is killing far more people than COVID-19 in British Columbia.

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