Social distancing and self-quarantine present no barriers to exploring humanism, art and the human condition. In Ela Bittencourt’s April 30, 2020 Hyperallergenic essay she writes that “Lange’s instinct not to shrink from misery but to embrace it evidenced her profound sense of empathy. If we’ve grown a bit immune to it these days, the havoc wreaked on American life — on global life — by the COVID-19 crisis lends Lange’s humanist vision renewed relevance.” We couldn’t agree more.
The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1, celebrate creativity, openness, tolerance, and generosity. We aim to be inclusive places—both onsite and online—where diverse cultural, artistic, social, and political positions are welcome. MoMA is committed to sharing the most thought-provoking modern and contemporary art, and hope you will join them in exploring the art, ideas, and issues of our time.
Toward the end of her life, Dorothea Lange (1895–1965) reflected, “All photographs—not only those that are so called ‘documentary’…can be fortified by words.” Lange paid sharp attention to the human condition, conveying stories of everyday life through her photographs and the
voices they drew in. Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures brings iconic works from the collection together with less seen photographs, from her landmark photobook An American Exodus to projects on criminal justice reform. Presenting her work across many contexts—photobooks, Depression-era government reports, newspapers, magazines, poems—and alongside the voices of contemporary artists, writers, and thinkers, the exhibition lets us consider the importance of Lange’s legacy and of words and pictures today.
This exhibition is currently being presented as part of MoMA’s Virtual Views series, as a “museum from home.” Explore iconic works that redefined how we see America with a live Q&A with curator Sarah Meister and photographer Sally Mann, enjoy poetry and artist’s books inspired by Lange, and unravel the mystery around one of the most famous photographs in the world.
There is perhaps no greater time in history to think critically than during a world crisis. But what is ‘Critical Thinking’? And why is it important; especially now? Many CEOs, politicians, world leaders, and educators champion its importance, but very few know what it actually is. So allow me to be clear: Critical Thinking is comprised of a set of tools or skill set that teaches us how to carefully, reflectively, and analytically interpret, understand, and act on information.
There really are better and worse ways to think about information
Critical Thinking allows us to distinguish between fake news and
information; and then to make valid inferences or conclusions based on that information. Although the Critical Thinking skill set can point us in a direction regarding what to think, it is primarily a set of guidelines initially assisting us in how to think about information.
The ABC’s of Critical Thinking
These guidelines include tools for the responsible collection of data and information which can be stated in the form of convincing arguments. They also include a greater capacity to acknowledge biases – both within ourselves – and within others, which may affect the way in which information is presented or interpreted. As well, Critical Thinking tools train us to understand the context in which information is housed so that it is reflected faithfully and without the omission of important back-story elements. Critical Thinking skills also allow us to better understand how evidence plays a key role in supporting arguments. And finally, one of the most important tools in the Critical Thinking skill set is the ability to recognize and call out errors of reasoning known as fallacies. When political leaders favour personal biases which contradict scientific evidence, we should recognize these fallacies for what they are – irrelevant, unfounded, emotional, self-serving, and often, dangerous.
How to Critically Think About Covid-19
Having acknowledged the importance of the Critical Thinking skill set, how should we be thinking about information regarding Covid-19? First and foremost, we need to start with information that has been attained responsibly and reliably. We need to familiarize ourselves with relevant contextual and background information that is evidence-based rather than simply based on opinion.
Although no news service can be completely free of bias or vested interest, there are many reliable resources available to choose from including:
BBC News, ABC, NPR, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Google News, NBC, The Guardian, CNN, PBS, NASA, Scientific American, Popular Science, Real Clear Science, Discovery, Nautilus, and National Geographic.
There are various other online resources that one might find useful to fact-check or further research information regarding a particular issue: Snopes, Pressbook: Web Literacy, Politifact, Factcheck.org, Washington Post Fact Checker, Truth Be Told, NPR Fact-Check, Lie Detector (Univision, Spanish language), Hoax Slayer, Climate Feedback, SciCheck, Quote Investigator, FactsCan (Canada), El Polígrafo (Mexico), The Hound (Mexico), Guardian Reality Check (United Kingdom), BBC Reality Check (United Kingdom), Full Fact (United Kingdom), mediabiasfactcheck.com, civilination.org, domainbigdata.com, and newswise.ca.
This list is not meant to be exhaustive of the resources available; rather, it illustrates some of the helpful and trusted sites that one may access in determining the reliability and truthfulness of information.
When it comes to knowledge – that is knowing what is true from what is mere speculation, our epistemic states of being could not have been summed up better than, believe it or not, Donald Rumsfeld. As Defense Secretary for George W. Bush, Rumsfeld summed up all possible epistemic states regarding any object of knowledge. He said:
“There are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know.”
Even though he was wrongly ridiculed for making these statements, his pithy depiction of epistemic brevity captures brilliantly what we should be asking ourselves with every issue we face. We should always begin with what we know, then proceed to consider what we know we are ignorant of i.e. reflective ignorance, and finally, we should be cognizant of the fact that our level of ignorance extends more deeply to the point of oblivion i.e. blind ignorance or not even being aware of what we don’t know. This is a healthy way to approach knowledge acquisition while working through uncertainty.
In regards to the latter epistemic state, David C. Logan pointed out that:
Much scientific research is based on investigating known unknowns. In other words, scientists develop a hypothesis to be tested, and then in an ideal situation experiments are best designed to test the null hypothesis. At the outset the researcher does not know whether or not the results will support the null hypothesis. However, it is common for the researcher to believe that the result that will be obtained will be within a range of known possibilities. Occasionally, however, the result is completely unexpected—it was an unknown unknown.
Sometimes referred to as ‘serendipity’, every now and again, scientists discover something completely novel that they never anticipated. This leads to the discovery of an unknown unknown. But let’s start at the beginning: what do we currently know about this particular virus?
Currently, we now know that Covid-19 is a novel new form of Corona virus which has passed from one animal species (probably bats) to another, and is using human beings as hosts which has unfortunately spread itself around the world due, in large part, to air travel. We first learned of its origins stemming from Wuhan, China. For various reasons – due both to human ignorance and political bureaucracies – the virus was not contained at its point of origin and has spread rapidly through populations causing a global pandemic.
What makes the spread of this virus particularly difficult to contain is that a significantly large percentage of those infected with it, show no symptoms. This characteristic – the fact that carriers can be asymptomatic – is the single greatest reason we are all living under the conditions we now find ourselves.
Now that we are faced with the extremely daunting tasks of avoiding or containing further infections while trying to develop ways to destroy or prevent further spreading of this pathogen, a global viral pandemic will always follow this exact pattern of reaction:
Testing, Isolation, Anti-virals, and Vaccine (or TIAV)
If you can remember the acronym TIAV, you will forever remember the order in which humans will always react to viral pandemics. Let’s look at each element of the acronym.
Due to the fact that we know carriers of Covid-19 can be asymptomatic, it has become vitally important to develop accurate tests which determine infections in real time. In various parts of the world, testing for signs of infection require people to wait for their results over a five day period. It doesn’t take much critical thinking to realize that this is far too long a time period if we wish to know accurate numbers of infections in real time. For example, based on such a system, person A could be tested on one day and produce a negative result, and then contract the virus between the test date and the result date thereby making the results of the test extremely ineffectual and potentially dangerous.
Luckily, there are new tests being developed and used to quicken the results. In Canada, the company Spartan Bioscience is producing millions of units to quicken the diagnosis time of testing. But not all countries have such tests; and some tests may not be as accurate as others. So in case you’re wondering why some countries – like Singapore and South Korea – seem to be ahead of other countries in ‘flattening the curve’ of their outbreaks, it’s because they conduct massive testing which provide results much more quickly. This allows officials to more accurately know and track those who are infected and those who are not. This, in turn, can allow for greater autonomy or social movement within various communities.
At this point in time, we know that Spartan Bioscience has developed portable DNA testing devices which were recently approved by Health Canada. These devices can apparently provide accurate tests for Covid-19 in less than an hour.
By using Critical Thinking, we can now state that, as a conditional, ifSpartan Bioscience (or any similar companies producing fast results) can produce millions of these devices for use around the world, then it logically follows that we will be better enabled to determine positive and negative cases and track infection rates much more accurately. This, in turn, will allow for the greater mobility of human populations. But – and this is a very big but – we can only increase human mobility if we have such accurate testing capabilities. Otherwise, isolation alone becomes our greatest defense.
Without such quick and accurate testing, our greatest defense against such a pathogen is isolation. By keeping populations isolated, we can slow the transmission of the virus and limit the increase of infections which will, in turn, ease the burden on hospitals faced with increasing numbers of advanced or critical cases. Trying to isolate massive populations, however, is not an easy task; and our current world population does not have much experience in doing so. There are many people – from essential services, to the homeless, to those who simply ignore the dangers of infection – who are susceptible to contracting the virus.
Autonomy vs. Paternalism
This raises the very interesting philosophical and political issues of autonomy versus paternalism. In other words, how much freedom should individuals have versus the State’s right to act like a parent and restrict their freedom? In Wuhan, China, and other countries around the world, strict isolation was enforced. However, in the US, individual states have controlled the amount of autonomy individuals have.
The most important inference to make here is that without accurate testing with real time results, isolation is our only tool by which to lower the rate of infection and ‘flatten the curve’. By using Critical Thinking, we can logically infer, then, that once a faster type of testing is available, we will begin to see a lesser need for isolation and a gradual loosening of travel restrictions on citizens.
By using the skill set of Critical Thinking, we can now infer that, at this point in the pandemic, there are three – and only three – reasons for easing isolation restrictions:
Testing: By conducting massive and accurate testing in real time to track infection populations.
Anti-Virals: The development of novel drugs which either cure outright or severely limit the damaging health effects to those who contract the virus.
Vaccine: The development of a novel vaccine which will prevent people from becoming infected by the virus.
It logically follows that the first wave of attack against the virus will be the development of accurate and effective tests. As mentioned above, this will allow epidemiologists to more accurately determined and track rates of infections and where those infections are occurring within a given population. This will then provide a more accurate picture of how and when personal isolation can gradually and strategically be lifted.
The next advancement in the war against Covid-19 will be the development of novel anti-viral medications. Currently, there are hundreds of trials being conducted worldwide to determine which drugs – or combinations of drugs – are effective in fighting this particular strain of Corona virus. Naturally, the world wants a cure as soon as possible. But we must be careful and vigilant in knowing which drugs work and especially, which ones do not. President Trump has been championing Hydroxychloroquine (a malaria drug) to combat the virus. But studies have demonstrated that it is not very effective and can actually have harmful side effects to patients – especially those with underlying heart conditions.
Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has stated that research is being conducted on Avigan (or favipiravir), an antiviral drug developed by a domestic firm (Fuji Film) that has been effective in treating COVID-19 patients. He has even gone so far as to give Fuji Film the go ahead to produce millions of pills. The problem, however, is that there is no definitive knowledge of its effectiveness and there are some bad side effects – including birth defects.
As much as we emotionally want to bring help to those suffering – and about to suffer – from the virus, the skill set of Critical Thinking trains us to ‘step back’ from our emotions to carefully and more reflectively consider how we should proceed. And this means that, at this point in the battle, any drug or vaccine development must go through stringent testing. In my latest book, I state that there are several phases for determining a drug or vaccine’s effectiveness, or efficacy, which must be carried out before such treatments ever make it to world-wide distribution and use:
Phase I: First of all, studies are initially conducted to learn about the dosages required to produce a response in the human body and about how the human body processes the drug and to learn whether the drug produces toxic or harmful effects and at what dosages.
Phase II: Second, a drug under consideration will be tested on a group of patients who have a specific disease. At this point, the drug is not a treatment per se but rather is the object of study to determine any benefits, side effects, and so on. If there are no benefits, the study stops. If there are benefits, researchers move on to Phase III.
Phase III: Finally, at this point, the intent of the drug experiment is to introduce a lasting beneficial change in the patients participating in the study with the intent to prevent or reverse the progression of the disease. There is a specific strategy involved in treatment experiments with patient participants at this stage.
For vaccine research, there are often Phase IV trials which occur after successful development at the prior three phases. This phase utilizes post-market surveillance studies to consider any and all potential adverse events with regular reports by the manufacturer to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)  to quickly and effectively identify potential problems after use in the population begins.
During the various Phases of drug research, scientists are utilizing the Controlled Clinical Trial. Clinical research on drugs or surgical treatments are undertaken in order to provide answers to specific questions such as these:
Will this treatment prevent or remedy a particular disease?
Will this treatment do more good than harm to patients with this particular disease?
Will this treatment do more good than available alternative treatments?
The central idea behind controlled clinical trials is to reduce bias in order to maintain objective, reliable observations. If scientists are not careful, their own biases can skew their understanding, rendering research useless thereby creating a false belief that ineffective or harmful treatments are therapeutic when in fact, they are not. The purpose for establishing a clinical trial is to determine the effectiveness of a therapeutic treatment. The word ‘trial’ indicates that there is a comparison between two or more potential outcomes.
Sometimes the outcomes compared are null, or to consider the option of having no therapeutic treatment. At other times, trials may involve comparisons between current and newly developed treatments. In the case of the latter, the goal of the trial is to determine which treatment is superior to another in, say, safety or effectiveness. The word ‘controlled’ refers to the comparative null set or group that receives no therapeutic treatment. It is often the case that a control group will receive a placebo rather than the actual treatment in order to compare the outcomes or effects of the study group. So there are often two groups that have a particular ailment. One group will be given a new therapeutic treatment, while the other group will be given either a placebo or competing drug.
The most important aspect of such studies is that they are blinded. This is a creative and novel use of what we might call ‘enforced ignorance’. Researchers deliberately single-blind or double-blind their experiments in order to maintain objectivity when compiling and later reading data.
Controlled clinical trials in which the patients do not know what group they are in are known as single-blinded studies. However, when neither the patients nor the administrators of the test know which group they are in, the study is said to be double-blinded. The purpose of blinding a clinical trial is to limit bias on the part of the administrators. In other words, if neither the administrators of the test nor the subjects know who is in which group, this will ensure greater objectivity in determining the effectiveness of the treatment. Only the lead researcher knows who is in the control group and who is in the test group. By blinding the administrators and the subjects of the trial, the lead researcher can prevent bias on two levels: at the level of the participants and at the level of the administrators.
Currently, throughout the world, there are hundreds of drug and vaccine trials being carried out. The greatest obstacle in determining what potential treatments are safe and effective is time. Right now, the world just wants to get back to normal. However, scientists cannot simply speed up the process of trials because, in so doing, they may approve a drug or vaccine which either doesn’t provide results or perhaps can even make things worse.
Since vaccines take much longer to develop, we can logically infer that an anti-viral treatment will likely be developed sooner than a vaccine. Should a successful antiviral treatment develop over the next few months, it will help to flatten the curve considerably. It will also provide hope for those who suffer most from the harmful effects of the virus. This, in turn, will help buy some time for those front-line staff and ICU hospital workers until a vaccine can be developed.
Unless and Until – The New Normal
One final aspect to consider: unless and until a safe and effective vaccine is developed, the world will be forced to live according to a new ‘normal’. Travel restrictions can conceivably be loosened with proper testing and anti-viral drugs. However, we will not get back to a pre-Covid-19 existence until all humans can be protected from the virus. And Critical Thinking allows us to infer that there are limited ways that this can happen: either the virus will be eradicated naturally from the world – as we saw with SARS and MERS; or there will be global inoculations through vaccinations to prevent the contraction and spread of the virus – or perhaps, a combination of both will occur simultaneously.
Recommendations – What Needs to be Done Now:
Accurate testing and tracking in real time needs to be set up as soon as possible at all of the following locations:
Telecommunications and IT infrastructure/service providers
Agriculture and food production
Resources and Energy
At each one of these facilities (and more), testing must be done consistently so that identification of infection can be accurately determined, tracked, and controlled. Without such testing, easing isolation restrictions will undoubtedly lead to a second or third wave of infection rates.
When you read or watch a media report claiming that a country is taking precautions by taking peoples’ temperatures, red flags and alarms should go off in our heads. And this is because a large percentage of people who are infected with the virus are asymptomatic – they experience and display absolutely no overt effects from virus – like fevers, body aches, tiredness, etc. Therefore, using our Critical Thinking skills, we can logically infer that testing for physical symptoms will only do a partial job of identifying and tracking viral infections. So if we simply let all people without symptoms move about within a given society, we will continue to see a surge or increase of affected cases. This is why accurate testing in real time must be done excessively and redundantly. Without a vaccine, it is literally the only way we can be sure of infection rates. And we should not limit isolation unless and until we can test at this level.
Conclusions and Caveats:
One final aspect to consider is human population behaviour once isolation restrictions have been lifted. Currently, some people – particularly in the US, but there have been some Canadians – who have begun picketing in protest of the ‘lock-down’. They are demanding that the travel bans and home isolation orders be lifted so they can return to their ‘normal’ lives.
There are obvious and great problems with these gatherings. Such gatherings will only worsen the spread of the virus which will inevitably and ironically, lengthen the time people have to self-isolate. Part of the reasoning behind such gatherings is that the virus is no more deadly than the common seasonal flu; and that we should just let it ‘run its course’. This is sadly misguided. What we do know is that Covid-19 kills, on average, ten times as many victims as regular flu strains. So it definitely is more dangerous.
Alone and Isolated
And finally, what many do not realize is the horrific way in which this particular virus takes lives. Because of the nature of the disease – its transmission, the likelihood for contagion, its pathology, etc. – those who suffer worst from the virus, usually die alone and isolation. And because of our current state of world-wide self-isolation, funerals and burials have been restricted which has severely affected the grieving process for millions of people worldwide. The long term effects this will have on loved ones will be felt strongly and for years to come. So we should be preparing our mental health experts to anticipate an increase in therapeutic need when the world emerges eventually and successfully from this pandemic.
Now, more than ever, it is a time to use our prefrontal cortexes rather than our limbic systems. During world crises, we need to think critically, not emotionally, about our next steps. It is my great hope, that when this world, our country, and our neighbourhoods return back to some level of normalcy, we will not forget how this happened or how we overcame it. We must continue to strive to put Critical Thinking at the forefront of our education and political systems at all levels. These are the skills needed at any given time in our lives. But they are most needed when we commonly face a world-wide crisis.
Canadian human rights activist, Yasmine Mohammed, advocates for the rights of women living within Islamic majority countries, as well as those who struggle under religious fundamentalism.
Her book, Unveiled, is a memoir/polemic that recalls her experiences growing up in a fundamentalist Islamic household and her arranged marriage to a member of Al-Qaeda. In it, she sheds light on the religious trauma that so many women still today are unable to discuss.
Yasmine Mohammed is an activist, writer, college instructor and the founder of Free Hearts Free Minds, an organization that provides psychological support for freethinkers living within Muslim majority countries, where the State-sanctioned punishment for leaving Islam is death.
UC faculty, residents and medical students honored for delivery of care, compassion and teaching
The UC College of Medicine’s Gold Humanism Honor Society Chapter, sponsored by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, will induct the GHHS class of 2021 and present several humanism awards to residents and faculty during a virtual ceremony available online Wednesday, May 20.
Dr. Melissa Klein, professor in the UC Department of Pediatrics and Cincinnati Children’s physician, will be recognized as the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Faculty honoree. Klein will officially be presented the award, which recognizes a College of Medicine faculty member who best demonstrates outstanding compassion in the delivery of care, as well as clinical excellence.
Fourth-year medical student, Caroline Hensley is the recipient of the Leonard Tow Student Award this year.
Dr. Melissa Klein/photo submitted
The purpose of the Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) is to promote a culture of humanism in the practice of medicine by publicly recognizing students, residents, and faculty whose clinical competence and professionalism include exceptional humanistic behavior and commitment to service.
Each spring, the UC College of Medicine’s chapter of GHHS recognizes those students who at the end of their third year have demonstrated exemplary attitudes and behaviors characteristic of the most humanistic physicians: integrity, excellence, compassion, altruism, respect, empathy, and service.
Twenty-six students will be inducted into GHHS: Sarah Appeadu, Rachel Azriel, Matt Byrne, Saige Camara, Margaret Carney, Thomas Daley, Adam Darwiche, Hagar Elgendy, Olivia Gobble, Caroline Horton, Kristen Humphrey, Basil Jafri, Jun Kim, Shawn Krishnan and Derrick Lin.
Other inductees will include Sarah Marshall, Katherine Melink, Kevin Milligan, Jasmine Prince, Mia Samaha, Alex Schoenberger, Santiago Serna, Dylan Sexton, Zach St. Clair, Vanessa Wagner and Max Yang.
Caroline Hensley/photo submitted
All students were nominated by their peers and faculty as students who best exemplify integrity, compassion, altruism, respect, empathy and a dedication to service. Their awards will be presented by Laura Malosh, assistant dean of student affairs, during the virtual ceremony on Wednesday, May 20.
Finally, the society will recognize two residents with the Arnold P. Gold Humanism Teaching Awards this year. It recognizes outstanding humanistic teaching residents as identified by their students. Third year medical students select residents to receive The Arnold P. Gold Foundation Humanism and Excellence in Teaching Award, based on their exceptional teaching skills and commitment to the compassionate treatment of patients and families, students and colleagues. This year the M3 class recognized Dr. Young King, Department of Surgery and Dr. Megan Sax, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Dr. Megan Sax/photo by Colleen Kelley of UC Creative + Brand
DiCarlos is the author of How to Become a Really Good Pain in the Ass and Six Steps to Better Thinking: How to Disagree and Get Along and a philosophy professor at the University of Toronto. In his newest book, DiCarlo breaks down the steps of critical thinking and the process of making a persuasive argument in this useful guide. To dissect core principles of argumentation, DiCarlo works through topics such as bias (biological, cultural, and ethnic), types of reasoning (deductive, inductive, and abductive), fallacies (red herrings and ad hoc), and how to address disagreement. DiCarlo hopes that as “people use the critical thinking skills fairly, they will be more empowered to have meaningful discussions about important issues, disagree entirely, and still be able to get along.” To make his points, he uses examples that are current, such as how President Trump exhibits philosopher “Harry Frankfurt’s distinction between lying and bullshit”; novel, as with arguments surrounding the existence of Bigfoot; and revolutionary, such as 19th-century Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis’s arguments against customary medical practices that led to modern antiseptic procedures. Those looking to critically engage with information or “value discourse over hatred” will learn a lot from DiCarlo’s thorough study. (June)
Publishers Weekly: Christopher W. DiCarlo. Rowman & Littlefield, $32 (240p) ISBN 978-1-5381-3855-7
There is perhaps no greater time in history to think critically than during a world crisis. But what is ‘Critical Thinking’? And why is it important; especially now? Many CEOs, politicians, world leaders, and educators champion its importance, but very few know what it actually is.
Critical Thinking is comprised of a set of tools or skill set that teaches us how to carefully, reflectively, and analytically interpret, understand, and act on information.
There really are better and worse ways to think about information Critical Thinking allows us to distinguish between fake news and reliably-attained, evidence-based information; and then to make valid inferences or conclusions based on that information. Although the Critical Thinking skill set can point us in a direction regarding what to think, it is primarily a set of guidelines initially assisting us in how to think about information.
Join humanists across Canada as we come together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Abortion Caravan. This one hour conversation with author Karin Wells is the first in a serices of events honouring the incredible legacy of the 1970 Abortion Caravan. Representatives from Canada’s national sexual and reproductive health organizations, including Action Canada, the National Abortion Federation, and the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, will also join us to share their work.
As we reflect on the legacy of the Caravan in 2020, some of the original caravaners will join us to discuss the anniversary theme of “Then and Now.” What issues would a 2020 Abortion Caravan work to tackle? How has access to sexual and reproductive health services changed in the last 50 years? Where do we go from here? This hour long conversation and launch of Karin Wells’ new book The Abortion Caravan: When Women Shut Down the Government in the Battle for the Right to Choose is open to all.
When May 4th, 2020 7:00 PM through 8:00 PM
Thanks for joining us for A Virtual Conversation with Karin Wells on the Abortion Caravan.
NEW YORK (Tuesday, April 21, 2020) – Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Michael Moore announced today that he is releasing a brand new documentary film on his RUMBLE Media label – and is offering it as a gift, free of charge, in the midst of the global pandemic.
On Tuesday, April 21st, beginning at 9:00 am EDT, Planet of the Humans, directed by filmmaker and environmentalist Jeff Gibbs, will make its world premiere on Michael Moore’s YouTube channel at YouTube.com/MMFlint (direct link to the full film on Moore’s page). Moore is scheduled to be the main guest on CBS’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Tuesday night to make his first appearance for the film.
There will be a live event Wednesday evening, April 22nd at 10:00 pm EDT / 7:00 pm PDT featuring a live discussion and Q&A with Moore & Gibbs and viewers from around the world across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram Live and Twitter.
Released on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and in the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic, Planet of the Humans takes a harsh look at how the environmental movement has lost the battle through well-meaning but disastrous choices, including the belief that solar panels and windmills would save us, and by giving in to the corporate interests of Wall Street.
The film is the debut movie from Jeff Gibbs, whom Moore calls “a brave and brilliant filmmaker whose new voice must be heard.” Gibbs is a lifelong environmentalist and longtime collaborator of Moore’s with whom he co-produced Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11. Planet of the Humans first screened as a work in progress at the most recent Traverse City Film Festival where it was a huge audience favorite.
Moore and Gibbs decided that with the American public – and much of the world – confined to their homes and suddenly having to consider the role humans and their behavior have played in our fragile ecosystems, the moment was too urgent to wait until later this year for the film’s planned release.
“We have ignored the warnings, and instead all sorts of so-called leaders have steered us away from the real solutions that might save us,” says Moore, who holds the all-time box office record for documentaries. “This movie takes no prisoners and exposes the truth about how we have been led astray in the fight to save the planet, to the point where if we don’t reverse course right now, events like the current pandemic will become numerous, devastating and insurmountable. The feel-good experience of this movie is that we actually have the smarts and the will to not let this happen – but only if we immediately launch a new environmental uprising.”
Jeff Gibbs, the writer/editor/director of Planet of the Humans, has dared to say what no one will – that “we are losing the battle to stop climate change because we are following environmental leaders, many of whom are well-intentioned, but who’ve sold out the green movement to wealthy interests and corporate America.” This film is the wake-up call to the reality which we are afraid to face: that in the midst of a human-caused extinction event, the so-called “environmental movement’s” answer is to push for techno-fixes and band-aids. “It’s too little, too late,” says Gibbs. “Removed from the debate is the only thing that might save us: getting a grip on our out-of-control human presence and consumption. Why is this not the issue? Because that would be bad for profits, bad for business.”
“Have we environmentalists fallen for illusions, ‘green’ illusions, that are anything but green, because we’re scared that this is the end — and we’ve pinned all our hopes on things like solar panels and wind turbines? No amount of batteries are going to save us, and that is the urgent warning of this film.”
This compelling, must-see movie – a full-frontal assault on our sacred cows – is guaranteed to generate anger, debate, and, hopefully, a willingness to see our survival in a new way—before it’s too late.
Planet of the Humans, which will be available for free on YouTube for the next 30 days,becomes the first documentary project to be released under the Rumble Media banner, and represents Rumble’s first venture with YouTube. Rumble Media launched in December of 2019 with the podcast, “RUMBLE with Michael Moore.” The podcast has now amassed more than 9 million downloads in its first four months.
According to the back cover of his book and his website, Peter Best is “a lawyer who has practiced law in Sudbury, Ontario for 43 years. Raised in nearby Espanola, favored with lifelong personal and professional relationships with indigenous Canadians, he brings a personal, literary and historical perspective to the greatest social crisis experienced by Canada today- the perilous state of its original peoples.”
What is the book? The long-form version of the title probably acts as the best summary of its contents: There Is No Difference: An Argument for the Abolition of the Indian Reserve System and Special Race-based Laws and Entitlements for Canada’s Indians. In a regular book review, we might investigate the overt arguments and contents of the book. Certainly the title contains enough potential for drama and controversy to whet almost any intellectual appetite. But that’s not what we’re going to do here. What we’re going to do, instead is feature, an underlying theme presented by Mr. Best.
On page three, he writes that when he was growing up in Espanola, “there was a sense that old religious and ethnic prejudices were hollowing out and being overcome, and that increasing social unity and equality was happening.” It is the first of many hints (and outright declarations) of an underlying theme of humanism to be found in the book. This is what we will consider.
How many books are currently published with an overt declaration of humanism or humanist values? More specifically, how many books are written about contemporary issues wherein humanist-based positions are asserted, explained, referenced and documented? These aren’t questions with precise answers. These are startled observations of an avid reader. I haven’t seen humanism asserted and affirmed so clearly and frequently in a long time. Water for the thirsty.
On page seven, Best writes…”the humanist assumptions were ones that emanated from the confident, busy, properous people we were then. They seemed to be shared by everyone, right to the political and economic top of the country. They highlighted what a civilized, progressive, ‘ideals in action’ society Canada was becoming.“
The book is written as a series of essays which, across 700+ pages, delves the matter outlined in the title in pains-taking detail. Frequently Best grapples head-on with various ideologies and asserts arguments and positions contrary to those from Canadian intellectual and political “elites” (Best’s term). The book is thoroughly referenced and widely sourced. The overall theme is that “somewhere along the way, liberal, humanist aspirations once common to our entire country have ceded to various forms of petty and chauvinistic ideological tribalisms and, with respect to our Indian peoples, to actual racial tribalism.”
And then again, Best asserts that he believes “that the vast majority of Canadians profoundly disagree with this trend towards further legal and social racial apartness between Indian and non-Indian Canadians. They want our humanist values – with their emphasis on equality and the rights of the individual over the rights of any racial group – respected, maintained and promulgated in all areas of society….why this rejection of 200 years of enlightenment thinking?“
The point to be made is not that all of Best’s arguments represent a clear, consistent and authoritative humanist approach to the topic. It seems highly unlikely, not to mention undesirable, that a singular humanist outlook should be asserted on any substantive matter. Nor should this article be read as an endorsement of every argument Best makes. Instead, Best is here approved on the basis of making an attempt to present a considered humanist-principled perspective on a hot and fraught topic.
Best makes an argument about his chosen subject that may be stated about any number of contemporary issues: “this issue is being driven and dictated by…a minority elitist theory of democracy, where on an issue of this importance the majority is being asked for and being offered no say.“
Peter Best has asserted his version of a humanist-informed opinion. More humanists need to step forward to assert similarly cogent humanist perspectives on whatever contemporary issue seems to require the attention.
“Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.” Eleanor Roosevelt
Carp, Ontario is a village in the Township of Huntley lying in the western-most ward of Ottawa. As of 2012, the human population was estimated to be approximately 2000. The village sits on the edge of a geological fault running through the Carp River Valley know as the Carp Escarpment or Carp Ridge. Carp has been an Eastern Ontario centre for agricultural activities since the 1800s, perhaps best featured in contemporary events as the annual Carp Agricultural Fair. Close by the Diefenbunker, another well known local museum attraction, huddles underground – a persistent reminder of postwar fears of nuclear war. It is a bunker the politicians had planned to retreat to in the event of a devastating nuclear attack.
A group of Carp residents are concerned about a different kind of devastation – a devastation that is entirely local and entirely preventable. They are appealing the city’s decision to allow a Concrete Batching Plant at 2596 Carp Road. The group objects to the rezoning because they believe that the city has ignored a number of municipal and provincial planning regulations as well as the welfare of its citizens. The group’s main concerns regarding the placement of a concrete batching plant at this location are: significant increases in heavy truck traffic; significant air pollution and increase in hazardous airborne substances; contamination of groundwater; contamination of Huntley Creek and degradation of the surrounding area; detrimental impacts to homeowners who live adjacent to this site; detrimental impacts to the heritage cemetery that sits directly across the street and has done so for 160 years (well actually, long before there even was a street to be named).
“Freddie Redfin the Story of Huntley Creek” is the result of a few of the local residents in Carp to take responsibility to try to prevent the devastation of a precious local eco-system. It is a children’s book written by local Carp, Ontario resident and author Dan Mayo and illustrated by local artist Jana Rothwell to highlight this struggle.
In Huntley Creek, every spring, a spectacle of nature is seen as hundreds of redfins migrate back to their spawning ground. This creek has born witness to the redfins annual migratory spawning for millennia, long before Canada existed! The carcinogenic dust from the plant will settle into these clean waters and contaminate it with heavy metals and silica. This pollution will necessarily flow downstream and poison the redfins, their offspring and an enormous diversity of wildlife, including many threatened and endangered species that live in or rely on the creek and spring waters.
These waters are the spawning grounds for the River Redhorse, known locally as redfins due to their red-colored fins. The redfins come to Huntley Creek because of Bradley Falls, a large spring-fed waterfall that cascades into the creek creating a pool of clean, cool oxygenated water and riffle rapids. These specific conditions are essential for the redfins’ to spawn!
The redfins are a heritage fish in Carp, Ontario and have lived in Huntley Creek long before Canada or the City of Ottawa existed as legal entities. In fact, the Town of Carp owes its name to the redfin fish. When early French settlers first discovered the river that was to be named the Carp River, they marveled at the thousands upon thousands of redhorses and related suckers to be seen during their annual migration. These fish were called “carpes à cochon” by the French, though the fish they were witnessing weren’t carp at all, but redfins. In the end the name stuck, and the town of Carp was named for the river it was built next to. None of this would have happened without Huntley Creek, however, because this creek is the only reason these fish make the migration up the Carp River.
Canadian governments and officials, at all levels, ought to respond to the demands and concerns of local residents who know and love their communities and Eco-systems. Placement of a polluting industry next to a pristine creek and natural springs will result in devastation of that local system. The City of Ottawa’s decision to allow heavy industry has failed to respect and act on the wealth of local knowledge and heritage. The local residents – whether counted as 2000 humans or the far greater number of non-human residents – will be the ones whose habitat is devastated. Perhaps, like with the building of the Diefenbunker, the politicians think the best way to contemplate devastation is to hide from it.
To help protect Huntley Creek, consider a donation:
On September 20, 2014, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights was opened to the public. Located in the City of Winnipeg, one of the Museum’s guiding principles is to inspire human rights, reflection and dialogue. It is a principle that ought, perhaps, to have been given closer attention when Dr. Richard Thain was advised that his interest to place a series of advertisements on the City of Winnipeg’s buses was rejected.
Dr. Thain had planned to advertise his opposition to the public funding of Catholic school systems in Canada. His idea was to leverage local and national media coverage of the museum’s grand opening to bring attention to his position on this issue. Thain worked with a professional advertising designer to develop a series of simple and elegant bus-ads. The theme of the ads was that the system of public funding for Catholic schools in Ontario is a human rights disgrace. The ads contained no images, words or phrases that could reasonably be considered offensive. The only contained a message that some people might disagree with.
Thain grounded his views with a position taken in 1999 by the United Nations Human Rights Committee when indicating that the provision of funding to Catholic school systems while simultaneously denying it to all other religious groups is discriminatory. Thain hoped to inspire intelligent, reasonable public discourse on this long-standing issue.
Thain contacted Pattison Outdoor Advertising, the firm responsible for the management of the City of Winnipeg’s bus advertising at the time, to gain access to advertising space. During the back-and-forth of price negotiations and content review, he began to understand that that some of the “higher-ups” did not agree with his views and planned to put an end to his campaign. It was then that he received a letter advising that his ads would not appear via the Winnipeg Transit system and that he would not be provided an explanation of why his ads had been blocked. No one from the City of Winnipeg called him as he had requested.
Thain says that he received a letter from the City of Winnipeg’s agent, one of Canada’s most powerful and influential advertising agencies, that contained a five-word sentence which altered his view of human rights in ways that he could not have imagined. The sentence read, “We consider this matter closed.”
No dialogue. No reflection. No right to self-expression.
Thain’s initial shock soon passed and he was struck by the need to confront a deep and worrisome dilemma. What do you when authorities tell you to go away? How do you fight City Hall? Thain decided that the matter was not closed. He decided to sue the City of Winnipeg and Pattison Outdoor Advertising.
In the summer of 2017, Thain procured Winnipeg-based legal counsel, Thompson Dorfman Sweatman LLP to represent him in his response. Thain believes that he has been denied his charter right to freedom of expression. and has launched a legal suit against the City of Winnipeg and Pattison Outdoor Advertising. The parties in the suite are set for an examination for discovery on January 30 & 31. 2020 – 62 months since the attempted advertising campaign. An examination for discovery process is intended to help all parties in a law suit find out about the other side’s case. Generally the idea is for each party to find out what the other parties have to say about the matters contained in the lawsuit, to see whether there are areas of agreement and to try to obtain admissions which could be used during a trial.
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Citations, References And Other Reading
Featured Photo Courtesy of Dr. Richard Thain
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