Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Michael Orsini challenges the use of "resilience" as an excuse to neglect government choices and make individuals responsible for social failings:

The resilience industry is rooted in an individual model of change, one that leaves untouched the structures and systems that are responsible for the trauma in the first place. Children growing up in under-served communities would not have to “overcome” their environments if their schools and neighbourhoods had the resources they deserved. Indigenous people would not need to become resilient in the face of colonial dispossession had they not been forced into residential schools or had their land occupied. As disability studies scholar Eli Clare reminds us, the language of “overcoming” is deeply ableist, as well, implying that people can will things away if they just work more or try harder.


Resilience is even used to refer to structures that can withstand environmental catastrophe. Focusing on buildings that are tough enough to recover from weather-related calamities neatly sidesteps the real issue: climate change. Sustainable buildings are only as “sustainable” as the world in which they find themselves: a resilient building is no match for a world upended by the perils of climate change. Similarly, a resilient person is powerless in the face of structures that need to be dismantled, not reinforced.

It’s not surprising that many, including elected officials, take solace in narratives of resilience and recovery. They lift us out of the pit of despondency. But we need to collectively challenge some of these policy responses that are grounded in notions of resilience. These feel-good stories of “building back better” or “overcoming adversity” provide only temporary comfort. They mask problematic assumptions about the relative capacity of individuals to confront structures and conditions that are not of their own making.

 And it's worth offering a reminder in that context of the Saskatchewan Party's attempt to get around meaningful action to combat a climate breakdown.

- Emily Peck examines how the security of paid sick leave reduces the spread of the coronavirus. And Martin Regg Cohn writes about COVID-19's disproportionate impact on the homeless and powerless.

- Meanwhile, Trish Greenhalgh, Martin McKee and Michelle Kelly-Irving examine the funding behind COVID-19 disinformation.

- Finally, Nicolas Rivero discusses how the heat generated by data centres can be put to good use - rather than being countered by wasteful cooling systems. But Nat Herz reports that the oil sector instead wants to use large amounts of energy trying to cool thawing permafrost just long enough to allow for fossil fuel extraction.

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