A #BlackLivesMatter Founder On Mental Health & Institutionalized Racism
Bioneers Pulse – updates from the Bioneers Community
Greetings fellow Bioneers!
Technology is so intertwined in our daily lives that we often forget to step back and assess the toll it’s taking on our wellbeing—from those feelings of FOMO (or the fear of missing out) we get from seeing others’ seemingly glamorous lives to normalized faceless, hateful comments to the constant influx of horrific crimes and accounts of racism, xenophobia, and violence we see on a daily basis. This hyper-connected world social media and big tech have created is on the verge of a reckoning as its users’ assess the damage it’s doing to their mental health. In this week’s newsletter, we hear from veteran Silicon Valley reporter Elizabeth Dwoskin on the blowback big tech is facing. We also hear from #BlackLivesMatter co-founder Patrisse Cullors on institutionalized racism, the women who have propelled the movement for equality forward, and the toll activism takes on mental and physical wellbeing.
The Big Question: Screen Time
It’s no secret that social media takes up a lot of our time, or that it can have devastating effects on mental health. But a recent survey of 1,479 people age 14 to 24 by the UK’s Royal Society for Public Health found that one social media app is worse than others when it comes to our wellbeing, thanks to bullying and the feelings of anxiety, depression, and FOMO that it promotes. Which social media app was ranked worst of all for our mental health?(Read to the bottom of the email for the answer.)
“Organizers aren’t trained to be therapists, and organizations aren’t designed with a therapeutic model in mind. Still, as organizers, we should make sure that the care and diligence that we have toward each other mirrors the kind of world we want to live in. That’s not to say that we should all be trained therapists, but rather that we should acknowledge that when working within a movement, your whole self may burn out, and that in order to prevent that, we must support each other taking the healing space that we each need.”
—Patrisse Cullors, performance artist, activist, and co-founder of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, on activism and mental health. Read more at Vice’s Broadly.
Video to Watch: Women of #BlackLivesMatter, Then & Now
In this talk, Patrisse Cullors explores the contributions women have made to the movement for Black lives historically and in the present; the institutional racism that still permeates our society, causing mass incarceration and high rates of maternal mortality in African-American communities; and the diverse ways women have been criminalized and have fought back to change the course of history.
What might happen when the descendants of a white slave trader and of slaves meet? That is the brave and wrenching journey of Thomas DeWolf, whose white ancestors were once the nation’s biggest slave traders, and Belvie Rooks and Dedan Gills, descendants of enslaved African people.
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Throughout her career as a journalist and in her current role as The Washington Post’s Silicon Valley correspondent, Elizabeth Dwoskin has broken many crucial stories on data collection abuses, online conspiracies, Russian operatives’ use of social media to influence the 2016 election, gender bias in the tech world, and many more. There may be no one better equipped to help us understand the perils and promise of what is happening in Silicon Valley than this relentless and insightful reporter. In this excerpt from her 2018 Bioneers keynote address, Dwoskin touches on the reckoning Silicon Valley currently faces, and how we got here.
Monopolies have historically been defined by people being able to undercut real or potential competition by charging lower prices than anyone else. But by that definition, Facebook will never be a monopoly. Why? Because its products are free. There’s no lower prices to charge.
As the scholar Tim Wu argues, perhaps our laws need to evolve to encompass a broader definition of what constitutes a monopoly. Essentially of what does it mean to be too powerful?
The question of power is at the core of my mission as a journalist in an age of tech giants. I don’t need to tell you that it’s a year of reckoning for Silicon Valley.
It’s also a year of reckoning for all of us that have come to rely on its products for connection, expression, shopping, learning, entertaining, bill paying, the list goes on. We’re questioning the effects of technology on our health, on our democracy, on our community, on our attention, and on our time. Ultimately we’re asking whether these products are good for the world. I want to probe that question from different angles, and to ask how we got here. Read more here.
Amazon Watch: Pledge Solidarity with Brazil's Resistance!
After the election of right-wing extremist Jair Bolsonaro as the next president of Brazil, the country’s human rights and environmental community anticipates a “crisis for Indigenous rights, the Amazon rainforest, and our global climate”—and is already fighting against Bolsonaro’s plans to roll back protections open the rainforest to catastrophic development. To show solidarity with Indigenous communities and environmentalist and human rights groups, sign this pledge of solidarity now.
What We’re Tracking:
A ruling in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Public Appeals last week found that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act does not protect external applicant, only current employees. (Ruth Umoh via Forbes)
Gary Nabhan, ethnobotanist and Bioneer, argues here that we should pay soybean farmers to plant native perennials that would help protect bees and butterflies rather than compensating them for losses. (Gary Nabhan via Civil Eats)
During a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg called out the elite audience and their irresponsible actions for not taking responsibility in the current climate crisis. Her speech and activism has also prompted students in Brussels to march for climate action. (Ivana Kottasova and Eliza Mackintosh via CNN)
The Big Question, Answered: Screen Time
Surprisingly, neither Twitter or Facebook ranked as the worst social media app for mental health by the Royal Society for Public Health, though the two giants did come in at second and third place, respectively. Instagram, the survey found, was the worst for users, promoting what it calls a “compare and despair” attitude. The RSPH is now advocating for a pop-up heavy usage warning on social media sites and apps. Read more about the study’s findings at TIME.
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