“Emergency Tornado Alert Wasn’t Issued To Everyone, Ottawans Complain” – (CBC News)

When I heard that Canada was going to spend some cash instituting an emergency alert system that would span all communication systems (including cable television and cellular networks) 2 years ago, I was impressed. Actually, I found myself a bit surprised that such a system was not already in place (an asinine proposition in the American section of Tornado Ally). But in an age of changing and increasingly erratic climate behaviour, better late than never.

In the following years, the system has gradually come online. The first terrifying warning I ever received was over the cable tv system, notifying people of a tornado in a fairly closeby town. In the years after, the LTE emergency alert system has gradually come online. Problems were apparent in early tests (including an entire cell carrier not relaying the alert. Mine, coincidently). But as new technology goes, most of the parties involved seemed to correct these issues.

To the point that a new problem with the Emergency alerting system soon became apparent.

https://mbman.wordpress.com/2019/02/28/amber-alerts-and-cellular-distribution-a-necessity/

First off, I will address the tone of the last piece. While I am not apologetic about it, this was written from the perspective of persecution. It seemed that you could not go anywhere in the realm of media without seeing criticism of this usage of the system being deemed as selfish (at best). Don’t get me wrong, thousands of idiots virtue signalling in the name of children is not annoying to me.
If anything, it’s hilarious. Every time an Amber Alerts goes out anytime between 11pm and 5am, they are there. To educate us knuckle-dragging mouth-breathing freaks that children are more important than our beauty sleep. And they all do it just because it’s the right thing to do, and not for any other reasons relating to positive social standing.

Yeah . . . I can’t say it with a straight face either. What would social media be without its bandwagon jumpers . . .

Either way, the annoying (well, infuriating) thing about these bandwagon virtue signalers is their short-sightedness. I expect nothing less from the social media posting public, but I would have hoped that people of authority would have a better head on their shoulders.

But first of all, we have to explore the Canadian emergency alerting system and how it differs from the system in place in the US (and possibly other nations).

This is a screen capture taken on my tablet, which was manufactured to the American EAS system specifications. As you can see, you have control over every type of alert (excluding presidential). Thus if you want to exclude amber alerts but still be warned of other threats, you can.

In Canada, however, all of these settings are redundant. Because for whatever reason (cost savings? compatibility?) the entire system was designed to send everything at the presidential level.
I like the implementation of the American EAS because it takes into account a serious flaw which seems to have been overlooked by Canadian authorities. That flaw is alert fatigue.

Though this issue seems to be most pronounced in the health care sector, it can come up in any context in which a person constantly deals with many alerts, particularly if many tend to be false alarms. From big industrial accidents to plane crashes, alert fatigue is a problem that many industries are still looking for ways to deal with.

While one would not think that this would be applicable to a public alerting system, the problem lies in the implementation of the 2 systems.
In the US, this is not a problem because the end user has full control of what they see. Not the case in Canada.

Which is why the authorities NEED to exercise care in how they make use of this system. And if the authorities at the lower level can’t get past this short shortsightedness, then maybe there should be someone higher up the Alert Ready chain that DOES.
Have some sense about broadcasting these things between 11pm and 5am. Because if they become persistent enough to annoy people, they will disable them in 1 of 3 ways:

1.) shut off LTE connection at night (or permanently)

2.) Run airplane mode at night

3.) turn off the device at night

Keep in mind, people are already doing this. As one can see if you check out Reddit and other discussions of this topic. NOT a great thing to hear as we go into tornado season (and overall, a more chaotic atmospheric condition overall).
Poor implementation and short-sighted use of this extremely valuable system have the very real potential of eroding what value it brings to the table. In the past, alerting people at night while they sleep was a HUGE challenge (just hope they hear the siren, and hope it goes off, to begin with).
Now, we have the siren on the bedside table. But only so long as it doesn’t frivolously go off too many times.

And so I have gone through it all again. The implementation of Alert Ready was idiotic, to begin with. Given this, the only solution to a very real problem is either narrowly targeted distribution (distribute to cells near highways likely pertinent to the case, not entire provinces), or not using the cell side altogether. Given the number of people that no longer listen to terrestrial radio in vehicles (and that most vehicles contain at least 1 LTE enabled smartphone) I highly prefer the former.

Though it looks like we STILL have some work to do in this area as well.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ottawa-tornado-emergency-alert-message-1.5160015?cmp=newsletter-news-digests-canada-and-world-evening

To close this, I don’t know why Canada didn’t just implement the Alert Ready mobile system in the same way that EAS is deployed stateside. Because if current trends (in terms of how the Alert Ready network is being utilized) continue, the systems overall value as a life-saving resource may well erode. Unfortunately, this will only become apparent after it’s too late.

 

Spring Cleaning

First of all, I want to thank anyone and everyone for following this blog.

For years now, this blog (and really, the identity behind it) was a bit . . . scattered. Way back in early 2013 when I first embarked on this journey, I called myself MB Man. This was in reference to what I thought to be my ongoing writing topic (life in Southern Manitoba). As it turned out, however, I didn’t end up following that trajectory.

As in most places like it, there turned out to be far more interesting issues to tackle (be it personal or macro) outside of the rather benign topics of my local existence. However, being that the identity (if you want to call it that) was already created (MB Man), I just ran with it. I eventually tried to rename this blog (and the corresponding Twitter account) to The Thought Zone in an attempt to get away from this. But even so, it still never felt right.

Which brings us to today.

Feeling that my theme choice was rather whitewashed and boring (not to mention unfitting to the material), I decided to try something new. And in searching for a set of photos to go with the tone that I wanted to convey, I stumbled into my new identity.

A Raindrop In The Ocean. And on Twitter, Raindrop_Blog .

Washed away are all but the faintest remains of the original identity of this blog.

I never wanted to make a splash with this blog. Though I have at times generated a fair bit of clicks on account to my topic of choice, it has never been the goal. This space has always been, a digital notepad of sorts. A place to lay down and explore different ideas and thoughts that run through my mind.

In its current form, it represents a vast collection of personal exploration in all manner of areas (both at the personal and societal level). It also represents somewhat of a growth curve (I am not the same person I was even back in 2014/2015). But in the grand scheme that is the internet (or even, WordPress) it is just the musings of one soul.

A Raindrop In The Ocean.

“Why Rigid Federal Rules Make Marijuana Containers Really Hard To Recycle” – (Global News)

This post is an unplanned followup to my previous entry, this time focusing on recycling cannabis packaging. The article covers some areas I felt compelled to comment on.

Let us begin.

https://globalnews.ca/news/5245251/federal-rules-marijuana-containers-hard-to-recycle/

The cannabis growers who had to design cannabis containers faced a long, rigid set of federal rules, and not much time to figure out how to comply with them.

The containers have to have a matte finish, opaque or translucent and be child-resistant (and there are a whole separate set of rules for what that means). The rules go so far as to forbid certain kinds of ink.“The packaging is very regulated,” says Hilary Black, chief advocacy officer at Canopy Growth.

“It has to be childproof. It has to be smellproof. It has to be waterproof, and it has to be food-grade. To meet all of those requirements, we ended up with multi-materials in the packaging, and that’s the thing that makes it difficult to recycle because it requires manual separation. Our municipal recycling programs and facilities are not able to handle that.”

Many local governments Global News contacted disagreed, saying they could recycle empty plastic cannabis containers if residents put them in the blue bin. (In Ontario, most municipalities we talked to said they couldn’t deal with black plastic, but other colours were fine.)However, Black says, they are wrong.“From the photos, those recycling facilities may not understand that there are layers of material in there, and they’re just looking at the black plastic. There’s a layer of tin inside as well.”

I like the honesty coming from the cannabis industry. Unlike the MANY other producers and distributors that hide behind the it’s TECHNICALLY recyclable disclaimer that causes so much grief for downstream sorters, I have to credit at least Canopy growth for being upfront with their packaging. Interestingly, in opposition to municipal recycling authorities.

It makes me wonder about what happens to such product even further down the chain than the community sorting facilities. Not just the potential as explored in the previous post (dumping into the global South). More, if acceptance of this mixed material product is potentially causing rejection of entire batches of product further up the chain.

We know that cities and towns don’t generally have much interest in their trash once it’s paid for and carted off to . . . where ever it ends up.

Though the odd one out, Winnipeg seems the most honest of them all. I am not sure if the reason is based on packaging contents, packaging makeup or a lack of market for the packaging plastic type, however.

Many Canadian cannabis producers, including Redecan, 7Acres, Canopy and Aurora, use black plastic containers, though producers are allowed to use any colour they want.“My understanding is that the multi-material issue is actually the problem, rather than the colour,” Black says.

The reason black is an issue is simple.“It’s because the optical sorters here that sort plastic with sensor opticals can’t differentiate black plastic from the conveyor belt,” explains Jo-Anne St. Godard, executive director of the Recycling Council of Ontario.

To deal with the issue, Canopy has developed an elaborate workaround, putting cannabis container recycling bins in retail cannabis stores in most provinces, and offering free UPS labels to consumers who are far from a store to send their containers for recycling. The recycling bins are in over 100 cannabis stores in the Prairies and Atlantic Canada.

The recycling company that Canopy uses is ready to deal with the specific issues that pot pots pose.“It’s really great to have a consumer take-back program,” St. Godard says. “That’s progressive. It’s important, and I’m sure consumers will respond to that.”On the other hand, she argues that containers could have been designed that were simpler to recycle.

This is a good step in the right direction on the part of the cannabis industry. Whilst I agree that the packaging SHOULD be less complex to begin with, it’s a budding industry (forgive me) working under the watchful eye of an untrusting government. Producers didn’t have much time to research packaging types beyond the compatible, so I don’t fault them for this choice at this point. Given the interest shown towards sustainability, I don’t doubt that other options are under consideration.

Contrast this to the VAST majority of other manufacturers and distributors that have taken NO responsibility for their end products.

They can’t simply be cleaned out and reused, Black says.

“It’s not because we can’t do it from a regulatory perspective, but actually because of sustainability issues. The way that they’d be required to be sterilized would require a ton of energy and a huge amount of water.”

The regulations don’t actually specify that containers have to be plastic. There are a couple of other possibilities, each with their tradeoffs.

Glass is also a possibility, though one that comes with flaws.

“When you think about glass, it’s heavier to transport. It takes more fuel to take a container of glass materials versus plastic. Plastic’s attributes are that it’s quite light, it’s cheaper to truck them around and doesn’t take as much energy. Glass is breakable so if you’re travelling long distances, it breaks, and then you’ve got contamination issues.”

The federal packaging rules specify many things, but making sure containers can be easily recycled isn’t one of them. For St. Godard, that’s part of the problem:

“I really wish that in the regulations, the federal government would have thought about recyclability of the package. Why not add that as a requirement right at the onset?”

“Then you would have forced these packagers to take the time to better understand how the package behaved, and saved us retroactively going back to try to fix a problem that has irritated consumers, and is a bit of a quandary for cannabis producers, who are just trying to do their job and get a product to market.”

1.) When it comes to alternatives to the current plastic laced packaging, I think that a good one would be aluminum (or steel). Both are likely easier (and cheaper) to procure than glass, and both are easily recycled. Unlike the various melting points of differing plastic resins (not to mention the other sorting requirements), both are easily melted down and repurposed.

Because steel IS steel and aluminum IS aluminum. Whether the raw post-consumer material held beans, beer or cannabis.

2.) Whilst recycling requirements would have been nice, targeting the cannabis industry ONLY with this regulation does NOTHING to even put a dent in the overall plastic recycling (or pollution) problem. The Cannabis industry seems to be doing a lot to address this issue already. It’s time for the rest of us (including the federal government) to catch up.

Manufacturing and utilizing plastic is cheap. Unsurprising, given that its disposal is almost always subsidized by tax-payers.

It’s time for a change. Like any other cash cow, this one won’t be given up without an incentive. Let’s make it happen by turning the tables . . . MANUFACTURERS pay for the plastics they distribute, NOT consumers.

The Plastic Menace – When Recycling Just Isn’t Enough

It’s been a long time since I last touched on the issue of recycling. Not that this is surprising really (what is there to talk about?!).
In the early days of this blog, I wrote a now-deleted post titled Fake Cycling, a rant spawned by my discovery that my workplace was throwing cans and glass bottles collected as recycling into the trash. In another post, I explored the ethicacy of fast food restaurants (and corporations in general) dumping enormous amounts of non-recyclable garbage onto communities everywhere. Unfortunately, I am such a tangential writer though that finding these quotes years on is very akin to looking for a needle in a haystack.

Or alternatively . . looking for a clear plastic straw in a bale of clear PET plastic? 

Bale? PET Plastic?
What the hell are you on about now?!

The topic of discussion for this post is one that almost every single one of us likely doesn’t give a second thought to. That topic is recycling. Or more accurately, plastic recycling.
Or to be perfectly pointed, the genuine PAIN IN THE ASS that is maneuvering the recyclability maze that has always dogged plastic. Whether it’s plastic packaging or some worn out plastic THING you purchased at some point at the dollar store, should it be blue binned or black bagged? 

For many people, the answer to this conundrum is simple. Just dump it all in the blue bin and let the sorters decide. Out of sight is out of mind, off to the store for more plastic STUFF. 
So common is this phenomenon that the industry has coined a term for it. Aspirational Recycling.

Having always wanted to be a good contributor, this has generally not been an issue for me. The ground rules for me have always been relatively simple.  Grease and food contaminants are an obvious No No (no pizza boxes!). Dirty is a No No.  Weird, unidentifiable resins are a No No (Hello old Tupperware juice jug!). And styrofoam is a DEFINITE No NO, being the lack of desire for it pretty much anywhere in North America. 

I do this to make things easier for the workers downstream from me. Many people don’t (maybe not realizing the grief caused by non-recyclables upstream).
However, while it’s easy to point the finger at your average consumer for engaging in this bad recycling etiquette, one ought to consider what the consumer has to deal with. 

I will agree with the VOX  video in obvious cases.

Paper towel. Diapers. Bowling balls. Best just to black bag anything in such an ambiguous category and move on.

However, items like paper-based coffee cups do pose somewhat of a challenge. They look reminiscent to a typical milk carton. While the lids are generally made from polystyrene (recycling code #6), these lids come with a recycling symbol.
It SAYS it’s recyclable. And technically speaking, given the right equipment, it is. However though, in most of North America, that resin isn’t accepted.
Styrofoam and polystyrene are widely distributed (egg cartons, meat trays, takeout packaging, cups, lids). And most of these items even carry a recycling symbol (#6 in this case). However, none of it is actually collected FOR recycling in North America.

Not unlike the increasingly expensive public awareness dilemma that is flushable wipes . . . mixed messages much?!

The dilemma (the illusion, really) doesn’t just end with styrene though (many do know not to recycle it, after all). In fact, I need not even leave my house in order to showcase the minefield that is end-user consumer packaging disposal.

Let’s start in the refrigerator.

I suspect that my little fridge is not unlike many others like it. Not unlike many other fridges out there, it is filled with plastic. You have your #1 (Polyethylene Teraphalate) and your #2 (High Density Poly Ethylene) plastic bottles and containers. And of course a bit of styrofoam and plastic wrap to round it all out.

Seemingly, an obvious batch to sort. Plastic wrap and Styrofoam in the black, everything else in the blue.

But what about the lids?

Every single bottle you see here is capped with a different plastic resin than it’s partnering container. And of all of those, only one (the yogourt lid) tells you it’s resin type (#2 HDPE).

Maybe not a big issue at first glance.
You can (like me) separate the lids from the bottles before recycling. Or let the shredder at the recycling plant do the separating for you.
Whilst lids (and accompanied plastic rings, where applicable) may not seem like a big deal, in the realm of plastic pollution, the smallest objects tend to be the most hazardous.

https://www.projectaware.org/news/ugly-journey-plastic-bottle-cap

While you may not have a whole lot of say in the type of packaging companies choose to use, one can presumably help ensure that their lid gets responsibly disposed of by putting it in the trash yourself. No matter where the bottle ends up downstream from my home, the lid won’t be in the ocean.

Staying in the kitchen but moving onto the pantry, I will showcase one other common recycling enigma for the average consumer. And really, an example that is not all that different from a paper coffee cup or a milk carton.

Yes. The cardboard-esk canister. In my kitchen alone, such packaging stores coffee, hot chocolate and sea salt.
Just a few short years ago, the decision was easy. The can was steel, the lid was plastic. One rinse, 2 simple categories, and off to the curb.
But now . . . it is paper. It is plastic. It is Metal. And it is all bonded and glued so tightly together that one practically needs a chainsaw to separate the materials.

It says it’s recyclable. Well, sort of.

I have to give props here to Tim Hortons for not including any information regarding recyclability on their container. Though one can’t say the same about the lids of their in store coffee cups, they aren’t blowing smoke up our asses here.

So . . .where does it go?

Consumer recycling confusion does not end there. Oh no . . .

How about mixed plastic packaging? Not just lids to containers, but additional plastics as part of the containers themselves?

One resin in combination with one other resin likely isn’t the end of the world. But as noted, some of these packages incorporate 2, 3, even 4 different resins in the packaging. All of which must be sorted due to the various melting points of different resins of plastic.

Having completed my little analysis of what menace lives within my 4 walls, one thing is easy to see. There is far more onus here to share than just on the consumer alone.
In fact, the problem of aspirational recycling is in a sense, a good problem to have. Governments have been trying to increase recycling rates for years, and it looks like it’s finally happened. The only problem being, this seems to have occurred concurrently to a drastic change in the lifestyle and consumption patterns of most in the first world. As the ubiquity of materials like paper increasingly dwindle due to our new and evolving digital existence, manufacturers are now pumping out more plastic packaged products than ever before. With the end result being that recycling depots have to deal with ever larger volumes of plastic materials. Plastic material which is not of much value, but none the less has to be sorted according to type, colour, grade and ever more catagories.

The vast majority of this first world plastic waste used to go primarily to China for processing and recycling into (presumably) new consumer goods. For example, patio chairs or reusable shopping bags. However, as of late 2017, this decades long predictable market has drastically ground to a halt.

https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/4/2/18290956/recycling-crisis-china-plastic-operation-national-sword

Having been caught completely unprepared, the entire first world was (pardon the pun) caught holding the bag.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAwCK–pmZ0

Why China choose to go this route, I am not sure. Some speculate that the chinese grew fed up with continuously having to sort though the first worlds carelessly sorted low grade recycling materials. This would make sense, given the number of single stream recycling programs deployed world wide (such programs tend to increase contamination rates).
Others claim that since China is going though a sort of reinvention of itself, this action is just part of the process. Part of the old image was, frankly, that of sometimes entire villages devoted to the sorting and repurposing of discarded western junk.
In short, China is no longer the garbage can to the western world.

Whilst I don’t doubt that all of the above play a role, I also suspect that it could be the fact that China is also dealing with its own plastic menace. It’s a nation of billions of increasingly economically mobile people with disposable income. And disposable income (in combination with post WW2 consumption, of course) comes a disposable lifestyle. No matter where you exist on the economic hierarchy, you generally are creating plastic trash.

The History Channel used to have a show called Trashopolis, which explored how various cities worldwide have dealt with their refuse throughout millennia. No matter how they dealt with it THEN, the story is almost universal come the modern era. A whole lot crap (much of it plastic!) that planners were generally unprepared for.

In this regard, one would be tempted into thinking that we have since solved this problem. In the developed world, one is hard pressed not to bump into a recycling receptacle of some sort no matter where they happen to be. Even in comparison to 5 to 8 years ago, we’re reclaiming more materials than ever before. Whilst contamination issues and sorting problems manifest themselves when aspirational recycling meets single stream systems, AGAIN, the recyclability maze is a doozy for the best of us.
The problems begin further down the line. Not unlike pretty much everything else that capitalism touches, recycling (in particular, plastics recycling) runs into many problems when it contacts this system.

Judging by the fact that pretty much every developed nation on earth got caught with its pants down on account to China’s Operation National Sword, there is one thing we all have to face. We don’t like dealing with our refuse. It is all about out of sight, out of mind.
A sentiment that would seem to permeate the entire system on the western side. From initial recycler to final exporter.
I put it in the bin. My city collects it all and sells it to the highest exporting bidder (or hands this part off to the private sector). And all of this material heads out of the country . . . somewhere.

At one time, it went to China (mostly). After China enacted Operation Green Fence back in 2013 (an attempt to clean up the often overly contaminated materials coming into the nation), exporting nations were forced to clean up their act A LOT, but the dynamic stayed mostly the same (with a few nations choosing to ship their materials to places like Malaysia for processing into Chinese-acceptable materials). Now, however, a good chunk of this waste (particularly plastics) is going NO WHERE.
Dotted all over the planet, consumer plastic refuse (or scrap, as the industry calls it) sits in bales outside of recycling facilities, exporters, and anywhere else that has a hand in the current consumer recycling paradigm.
Since plastic waste in modern society has now become a never-ending wave, the obvious issue of space limitations come in when recyclers run out of storage space and have to begin landfilling (or incinerating) otherwise usable material. A process that is further compounded by the fact that recyclables can only sit in the open environment for around 6 months before they become too degraded to be usable (aka salable).

In which case . . . you guessed it!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRQLilXLAIU&t=34s

And if that were not bad enough, even jurisdictions that manage to find buyers for their plastic refuse in the post-Operation National Sword era are not immune to contributing to problems. Though I suspect illegal recycling rackets existed as long as recycling has been a business (yes, there is such a thing), they have exploded in the past 2 years. Particularly in nations like Malaysia, which now are having problems getting a grip on law enforcement. Because there is a glut of plastic to buy worldwide, and getting in on the action is a relatively simple process. You just need some land and employees desperate for ANY work they can get.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqrlEsPoyJk&t=623s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRvLrENE4Ok

The above link brings to light another (the other?) huge problem of Western garbage disposal.

E-waste.

Another case in which even doing things the RIGHT way does not always seem to achieve a desirable result.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3-B6ygNT6c&t=41s

The world is dumping its trash on the global south. Right now it’s Asia and Indonesia. In future years, it could be Africa. Anyone in any nation that is willing to take it.

When it comes to the path forward (“What can we do?!”), the first thing we ought to do is bring recycling off of the back burner. For the vast majority of us, recycling is an almost religious experience. Putting the plastic bottle or tub in the blue bin is almost akin to prayer. It takes little time and effort, yet provides a feeling of self-satisfaction that is desirable.

What can one do?

I would say that the obvious first step would be in Activism. While practising and advocating for careful consumption is part of the solution (buying less plastic), that can only go so far. Plastic is cheap, and given the state of the world economy, sometimes that is the biggest factor.

Instead, one should focus on 2 areas:

1.) Giving the average consumer a choice

2.) Putting the responsibility of plastics disposal on the product manufacturers and distributors, NOT consumers

Depending on where you live, paying an environmental leavy on various bottles and cans might be a reality. Some jurisdictions refund the fee upon returning the empty container, others put the fee towards maintaining the recycling system. Or maybe no such fee is charged and the whole of the task falls onto the taxpayer funded solid waste collection system.

Either way, it’s completely backwards. Whether one can get the money deposited back or not is irreverent. If it was dependant on a choice (you pay a deposit on plastic, but not glass or aluminum, for example), it is one thing. But for a good 95% of the products we purchase in plastic packaging, there IS NO ALTERNATIVE.
I can buy powdered laundry detergent in boxes (also likely not recyclable, but at least not plastic!), but not bleach. Or even dish soap.

People passionate about this problem like to primarily point the finger at consumers. Whilst some fault DOES indeed lie with us, we are also at the mercy of manufacturers.
For example, I didn’t have any control over the ice tea maker Snapple very recently switching to plastic bottles over their previous choice (glass). A good bet is that the deciding factor for that was cost. Plastic is cheaper to purchase wholesale than glass. They don’t have to worry about the costs associated with the disposal of this packaging because WE allow it!

Step one is activism. Bring recycling out of the realm of out of sight is out of mind.

Step 2 is up to you.

For me, it means employing new habits that are antithetical to everything that I have been taught from a VERY young age. It means a drastic change in the way I both view AND participate in recycling.

My first step was a decision to quit recycling plastics, PERIOD. Not just the weird resins that are too ambiguous to fit either option. I’m talking EVERYTHING.
Bottles, tubs, etc.
I don’t like to do this. But until it seems that the first world has figured out a better way of dealing with this plastic menace than dumping it on the undeveloped world, it seems the most obvious way to not contribute to the problem.

And yes, this IS your problem too. The reason why I sourced documentaries filmed by news agencies based in all of the developed world’s largest contributors to the problem was to hammer home this point. No one is immune.

Am I saying that everyone should stop recycling plastic (or stop recycling, period)? Of course not.
For one thing, I still recycle other materials like paper, metals and glass. And I don’t deal in the business of talking down to people. I let people make their own decisions.

All I want is for people to know. Knowledge is power.

Alone, none of us can achieve much headway in pushing for plastic alternatives (whatever form that may take). But we are much harder to ignore in unison.



Marijuana – An Exploration (Part 5 – Synthetic Marijuana)

Synthetic Marijuana

Since I first came across this substance (well, phenomenon) a number of years ago, it annoyed me. A substance that shady marketers have dubbed Synthetic Marijuana. Back when I first was made aware of it (2009 or so), it was commonly referred to in the media as Bath Salts and by a few other pseudonyms which have likely evolved over the oncoming decade. Back then, sold everywhere from drug paraphernalia shops to C-stores, this stuff seemed easier to obtain than aspirin. Or even healthy food (depending on where one resides in the US of A).

I can put a timeline on it because I first learned of this substance through a segment on the Dr. Oz show. Something that is significant, because I was an avid viewer of Dr. Oz (and The Doctors) for a span of only a year or 2.

In a nutshell:

  1. I wasn’t transitioning any of the information from said shows into my everyday life anyway, so I questioned why I was watching in the first place.

  1. I started to see inconsistencies and problems in the material presented, particularly with regards to Dr. Oz’s program.

I list all my reasons for tuning out in the following post, published in June of 2014. The other 2 are follow-ups, of sorts.

https://mbman.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/dr-oz-why-i-tuned-out-a-long-time-ago/

https://mbman.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/busted-busted-dr-oz-guest-must-repay-9-million-to-customers-in-magic-beans-diet-scam-green-coffee-extract/

https://mbman.wordpress.com/2014/12/22/over-half-of-advice-from-popular-tv-doctors-is-false-study/

Getting back to the topic of this piece, again, this whole phenomenon was irritating to me. Were talking rubbing 2 pieces of Styrofoam together, or scrapping long fingers down a chalkboard level irritation. All because of the preventability of it all.

Before I go down that road, I should first give my readers somewhat of an idea of what we’re dealing with. The name is really all you need to know. It’s basically synthesized cannabinoid compounds which are made and sold in bulk quantities online, sourced out of Asia. Though many of the compounds are rendered illegal (nothing sold back in 2009 is likely to be lawful now), evading this is as simple as tweaking the formula. Turning this into an endless game of Cat and Mouse between authorities and criminals.

Aside from homeless populations (due to its low price), teenagers were the largest cohort thought to be obtaining this substance. Likely because it is easier (and far less risky) to purchase than, anything else. While I would NEVER argue that marijuana is harmless or benign as a rule of thumb, given the choice of the 2, the best option is clear.

Indeed, I would rather minors not be experimenting with potentially dangerous substances at all. However, assuming prohibition is going to make this happen is delusional thinking at it’s finest. In fact, on par with the assumption that abstinence-only education is going to scare kids out of promiscuous behaviour. It might make parents feel better (“Let’s just put aside this, pesky, difficult little problem . . .”), but it sure as hell isn’t helping minors.

Marijuana, particularly the often ultra high THC/negligible CBD containing strains of today’s marketplace, are not harmless for the developing brains of children. But they are also generally not the misunderstood packets of who knows what that make up the synthetic marijuana marketplace.


There is something to be said about the purity argument (“
You can’t trust that your weed has not been chemically altered before you buy it!”).

I don’t disagree. However, the same goes for anything you buy or consume, legal or prohibited. Indeed, those skirting the law have less incentive to focus on the safety of the end user. None the less, life is fraught with risks, one of them being contamination of one’s consumables.

Keeping marijuana (and really, any commonly sought after substances) at the level of prohibition actually makes the job of quality control more difficult. Unlike food and drug manufacturers that track product production with batch numbers and expiration dates, there is no such tracking of illicit substances. As such, while a food or drug maker can issue a recall based on said numeric tracking codes, the best authorities can do to curtail the distribution of tainted licit substances is PSA campaigns on the local news. Campaigns that are often very easy to overlook due to the fact that almost ALL interaction with the public on the subject of drugs comes across as paranoid propaganda. The government cried wolf too many times over the years. So now all they can do is watch as versatile synthetic compounds, tainted party drugs, and god knows what runs increasingly rampant everywhere.

Do I blame ill-informed PSA campaigns for all of today’s drug whoa’s?

Of course not. There is a whole slew of socio-economic factors at work here. However, I don’t think it helped the situation. Not just the overtly dramatic demonization of the illicit, but the market-driven risk reduction of the truly dangerous. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that opioid addiction is now a common term pretty much no matter where one looks.

Getting back to the original topic (synthetic marijuana), it should be noted that this is not encompassing of the whole picture. While synthetic marijuana is a big part of it, it exists alongside some legalized derivatives under the umbrella term Synthetic cannabinoids. Though the 2 are not often mentioned alongside one another, there are legally available and prescribed synthetic cannabinoids. One is Dronabinol (marketed as Marinol or Syndros), which is approved for use an appetite stimulant, antiemetic (prevents vomiting and nausea), or sleep apnea reliever. Though available in the US, it is no longer available in Canada (I assume due to cannabis-derived options drying up the market).

Other legally synthesized cannabinoid agonists include:

Sativex– Known medically as nabiximols, it is a spray that delivers measured concentrations of both THC and CBD. It’s approved for the treatment of some symptoms of multiple sclerosis and advanced cancer pain.

Cesamet– Known as nabilone, it’s approved to treat chemotherapy-induced vomiting.

Though these are under the umbrella synthetic cannabinoids, I suspect that they make up a very small part of the whole picture (compared to the illegal synthetics).

While so-called synthetic marijuana has been available online since 2004, later variations of the substance are typically very different than those from the early days. Though the older varieties were primarily derived to produce similar effects to marijuana, newer variants often don’t keep this focus. Due to the constantly changing nature of the substance (sometimes even on a batch to batch basis!), all effects (both the positive AND the negative) can be hard to pin down.

Whilst this stuff does not seem to be as easy to get as it was back in 2008/2009 when the newly created epidemic was in its infancy (not to mention that I suspect vaping may take a big chunk out of its market share), it’s still occasionally in the news. While it’s price will almost always be lower than that of marijuana (wherever one procures it), I can’t help but think that easier access will eventually destroy its marketability. If I use alcohol as a comparison, people living in jurisdictions allowing legal marijuana tend to buy less alcohol. I suspect it’s due to the nature of the intoxication. Marijuana tends to be far less rough around the edges than alcohol, and this is almost certainly going to be the case with synthetics too. And marijuana will almost always have the natural element to its advantage. It’s part of a plant, as opposed to synthesized god knows what.

As long as one makes the healthy alternative hard to access, these substances will always have a dominant place in any given market. It’s cheap to produce, fairly easy to sneak past customs checks (border security can’t check everything. The economy would grind to a halt!). But most importantly, people would not be chasing chemical based marijuana alternatives if the real thing weren’t so hard to get.

Marijuana – An Exploration (Part 2 – Gateway Substances)

Part 2- Gateway Substances

Owners of pizza parlours and convenience stores the world over, agree. Marijuana is definitely a gateway substance.

With that out of my system, my first area of exploration is, I will admit, based on an anecdotal conversation with a former addict of alcohol. In talking about this, he cited both the addiction potential of cannabis as well as it’s status as a so-called Gateway drug. For those unfamiliar with the term, it essentially refers to any substance that is thought to be a stepping stone towards more potent substances. Even that description seems extraordinarily nuanced, given that I’ve never seen the concept utilized outside the context of cannabis. Well, aside from in my past explorations of the topic of drugs.

When I consider the concept of a Gateway substance, several things come to mind. Interestingly, almost none of them involve the consumption of marijuana. In one case, it involves the procurement of the drug, however.

I will start with something that has been apparent to me for a long time (albeit anecdotally). The first drug that I considered as a gateway substance has always been alcohol. This is based around personal experience with various intoxication levels of both substances, and knowing how these don’t differ much from the common experience. Marijuana tends to induce a relaxed mindset (though paranoia and bad trips can happen). On the other hand, alcohol tends to greatly reduce one’s inhibitions in many situations. Not to mention the well-known phenomenon of magnifying underlying personalities (most noticeable when it comes to aggressive types). A concept poked fun at by a fridge magnet that I picked up in Nashville that reads “Instant Jackass. Just Add Beer”.

While the loosening up trait of alcohol can be seen as useful for less outgoing people (like myself, frankly), the trade-off of this is apparent in the last paragraph. Not to mention, the very reason why I have always listed alcohol as Gateway drug #1. Can these chemically reduced inhibitions lead to people trying even more potent drugs?

Marijuana tends to be the next step up from alcohol, but what about beyond this?

Here, I indeed acknowledge that there does seem to be a hierarchy of sorts when it comes to Gateway intoxicants. And Marijuana does indeed seem to have a place on the hierarchy. Where I deviate from most people, however, is where on the hierarchy I place marijuana. While most people have been conditioned to see marijuana as step #1, it is typically step 2 for me (if not 3, or even 4!).

Marijuana as step 2 was just explained. When it comes to step 3, I have to start one rung below alcohol, at caffeine. Whilst it has always been present in one form of food or beverage or another forever, the emergence of energy drinks in the past 20ish years has solidified their place in the hierarchy. Certainly so, after I thought I was having a heart attack after pounding back 2 Redbull’s in the span of an hour and a half at an old job. Don’t get me wrong, I still drink them on occasion. Just . . . not more than 2 in a day.

I bring this up on account to the continued marijuana is not a benign argument, as vocalized by layman and experts (including some MD’s) alike. Indeed, this shouldn’t be a marijuana-selling point. However, it’s hard for me not to think that highly caffeinated energy drinks aren’t being perceived as being far more benign than marijuana, just on account to how they are retailed. Be it from a dealer or behind an age limit, marijuana retail has always had an err of caution to it.

Energy drinks . . . not so much.

A brilliant example of this is the types of events and people that these companies tend to sponsor. Generally, extreme sporting events and athletes at the top of their game. Back when George St Pierre was in his UFC heyday, he was sponsored by NOS energy. Something that bothered me at the time, being that I doubted someone in such peak physical condition would have a place in that regiment for highly surgery and caffeinated sugar water.

In an old job, I once limited a teenager to purchasing just 4 of 12 energy drinks be put on the counter. I didn’t have to do this, by law. Had I sold the beverages to the teen and something happened, I (and my employer) would likely not be liable. But even so, such is a flimsy excuse reminiscent to that of a pharma company that accidentally addicts millions of its patient customers.

Either way, caffeine is my typical Gateway #1 drug for good reason. But having said that, it is really the first potential gateway substance? Or is there another substance that is even more prominent than caffeine?

What about sugar?

Though it is often paired with caffeine when consumed (be it in coffee, soda, or energy drinks), it’s consumption does not mandate the presence of caffeine. It is well known that food companies use sugar (and to a smaller degree, salt) to make all kinds of food products irresistible. Where things get fuzzy, however, is where the line between irresistible and addictive lies.

In fact, even this little thought experiment is filled with uncertainty. Based mainly on the uncertainty as to whether sugar (salt?) could or should be considered to be a drug. Can a substance which is not a drug still retain truly addictive properties? More on the topic on which I had originally set out on, can a non-drug be a gateway substance to more pharmacologically potent substances?

For the sake of this paper, my consideration of sugar is indeed, just a thought experiment. For the time being, I consider Caffeine to be gateway #1.

Having said that, however, there now exists some new substances on the market of which are comparatively as easy to obtain as both caffeine AND unregulated marijuana.

Both bath salts (or synthetic marijuana) and vaping solutions are becoming more and more popular within the younger demographics. This could skew this entire Gateway hierarchy (or add more branches than the traditional single one).

Another substance that I am completely overlooking which may also play a part in this matrix (though increasingly less so on account to flavouring bans and vaping) is tobacco (nicotine). Does this fit into this paradigm, or is it it’s own thing? Does smoking cigarettes make one more likely to smoke weed, or is that mostly just a consequence of social connections?

In any case, whether or not there truly are Gateway substances or drugs, the scope has to be more encompassing than of just marijuana. On account of this, I have broken this section of the long form up into several sections so as to explore some of these branches in as much detail as I can.

Part A

This next thought of how marijuana could play the part of a gateway drug actually involves its absence within a given marketplace. Or to put it another way, it’s lack of availability through the same underworld channels which have plenty of other types of substances to unload. I will state up front that, yes, this is also somewhat based around anecdotal observations within my life experience.


Though it has been years since I have last consumed marijuana in any way (I don’t even really drink alcohol all that often), I still remember the conversations with the drug dealers. Not
my conversations with the drug dealers, mind you (I was never more into the scene than passively in social situations). More like overhearing friends and acquaintances calling up their given handful of contacts retailing their desired herb. Though they more often than not had no Green to offer, Rock, Snow or Ice was never hard to find. For everyone outside the lingo, in order of appearance:

  1. Marijuana

  2. Crack

  3. Cocaine

  4. Meth

This time of my life was a time of change and experimentation.

To put it in context, I had lived most of my previous 16 or 17 years with the mindset towards drugs (and of course, those of whom take them) that is not unlike a current day Jeff Sessions. I had absorbed that drugs were bad news, as were the people that did them. Though one of my closest friends was a user (pot smoker. I use the word because my ignorant mind auto equated with a crack smoker), he fit the mould of what such a person looked like in my mind. As such, my inner narrative wasn’t questioned. That is until I found out that another fairly close friend of mine (of whom DIDN’T fit the profile) was also a regular dope user.

In the coming year or so, this would happen once more with another close friend. Interestingly, the same one who got me into smoking by way of little flavoured cigarillos. This was around 2006. Unsurprisingly, movements towards bans on flavoured tobacco products started in 2009, with bans starting to roll out across Canada in 2010. And as of October 1st, 2017, menthol products are also banned across Canada.

Quite the downer that is, considering a part of my pain had just activated with the thought “I am REALLY craving a menthol smoke now!”. Shucks.

Either way, this was also around the time when I would leave home and live with a roommate for the first time. A roommate who enjoyed smoking marijuana, drinking and otherwise partying. Even despite living here, it took some time before I finally get the courage to try the stuff for the first time. After which it actually became a desired experience.

It was here, where I overheard the phone calls. Observing my roommate (or someone else present at the time) cycle through their list of dealers looking unsuccessfully for marijuana. It made me think back to my previously sheltered existence, seeing articles in the paper or stories on the evening news of our local police force boasting about busting dealers and confiscating tens of pounds of weed. The kids are safer because now there is less marijuana available for them to buy on the street, they said.

Meanwhile, in an apartment filled with young stoners, phone calls to many dealers uncover the availability of almost every other common drug BUT marijuana.

So, did we find some?

Yes. But not before being offered a laundry list of other more harmful substances first. Be it Ice, Snow, Rock, or good ole E. Or as it seems to be called these days, Molly. Though THAT may well be something else entirely (I’ve been out of the loop for close to a decade).

Either way, in this instance, marijuana could very well serve as a Gateway substance. However, if my hunch (as insinuated) is correct, the reason for this status IS the very war being waged on its distribution in the first place. Prohibition should have been an excellent example of what happens when you attempt to artificially smash a market with a shitload of money left of the table. In an ideal world, no, teens should not be smoking marijuana. But since we don’t live in an ideal world, is having them resort to meth, crack or cocaine any better?

You can not claim to be for the safety of children if you can not answer that question honestly.

Thankfully, the majority here in Canada have finally gotten the memo and this problem has started to be dealt with. Granted, we are very early in the transition process (as of this writing, it hasn’t even been a year since legalization). The bulk of marijuana sales are still happening through illegal channels, thus kids are (in theory) still not safe. However, the saturation of fentanyl, methamphetamine and other more powerful drugs tends to (rightfully) occupy more police time than marijuana. Thus, whilst not ideal, the teens might not be as vulnerable to something much worse than ANY strength of cannabis.

In time, I suspect that the modern day underground Cannabis economy will go the same way as the underground alcohol economy after the cessation of prohibition. Price, variety, and primarily convenience will eventually drive the majority of consumers to legal sources. Without the demand, all the problems that came with the illegal suppliers go away along with their economic viability.

Unfortunately, I suspect that this will just mean many will make the switch to producing or selling other substances without legal competition. This is an unfortunate side effect of legalization. However, it is also a sign that simple marijuana legalization really doesn’t go far enough.

Part B

Which is why I am of the opinion that ALL drugs ought to be legalized. Or at the very least, decriminalized. Indeed, that is a very bitter pill for even a legal weed accepting society to swallow. However, it is not without precedent.

A good methodology that I would follow would be the to completely decriminalize everything, then transition the money that was once designated for the elimination of drugs towards treatment. Rather than treating addictions (and whatever underlies that symptom) by just rounding up the junkies and throwing them in the slammer, let us show our fellow human beings some care and compassion. And when I say treatment, I don’t necessarily mean your typical faith-based 12 step program either.

Should they play a part in the solution to the rampant fentanyl, methamphetamine, and other drug epidemics?

Yes.

Should that be the ONLY option that is well funded?

No.

 

The system of which I was eluding to earlier (decriminalize everything, focus on treatment) is actually the current status quo of Portugal. Having found itself in the midst of multiple drug epidemics at the same time during the 80s on account to its geographical location (among other economic and demographic factors), the nation found itself with a very serious problem in need of drastic action. And drastic action was indeed the action that the nation’s leaders took.

And it would seem that they were successful.

Since decriminalization, lifetime prevalence rates (which measure how many people have consumed a particular drug or drugs over the course of their lifetime) in Portugal have decreased for various age groups.

-students in 7th–9th grades (13–15years old) – 14.1 per-cent in 2001 to 10.6 percent in 2006.

10th–12th grades (16–18 years old) –27.6 percent in 2001 (the year of decriminalization) to 21.6 percent in 2006.

In fact, for those two critical groups of youth (13–15 years and 16–18 years), prevalence rates have declined for virtually every substance since decriminalization (see Figures 4 and 5).33

http://www.midcoastforum.org/wp-content/uploads/greenwald_whitepaper.pdf

Interestingly, that white paper was published by Glenn Greenwald for (or VIA, however these things work) The CATO Institute. Though I’m not a big fan of either entity, but data is data.

Part C

And finally, we come to the darkest corner of the Gateway drug rabbit hole. Opioids. Poppies on steroids.

By now, it’s safe to say that Opioid addiction is a pretty common phenomenon in all corners of the western world. A big part of this prevalence I suspect lies with manufacturers misinforming doctors about the addiction potential of these medications. This no doubt causing otherwise good MD’s to make bad calls, thus turning a routine back or neck injury into a slippery slope into addiction hell.

In the places where greed and medicine are legally allowed to coexist, the former often became a big factor in the choice of prescription. Be it little perks or huge paydays, the end results are often the same. The patient is the loser.

Thus, my final contestant for the Gateway Drugs competition should be obvious. In fact, blatantly apparent. All you have to do is listen to one of the hundreds of stories originating from people that ran out of legitimate prescriptions, only to look to the black market to keep getting the fix they now needed.

No, not the fix they desired, like every marijuana smoker. I am indeed saying the fix they needed. Because chemical dependency is a very different beast than marijuana addiction, which is thought to be less chemical dependency than it is a physiological dependency (a characteristic also shared by Nicotine, Cocaine, Methamphetamine and some others, interestingly enough). This is not to say that long term users of any of the above substances won’t run into withdrawal symptoms (fatigue, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances and trouble eating are common). It’s more that those withdrawal symptoms tend to be much less severe (or in some cases, life-threatening) than those related to substances such as opioids and alcohol.

Part D

I must now admit defeat. Everything I said was wrong. It’s time for me to go to medical school because I don’t know a fucking thing about Cannabis, cannabinoids, addiction or how gateway substances work.

Well, sort of.

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-gateway-drug

As it turns out, there does indeed seem to be a connection between cannabis use and the development of what researchers term alcohol use disorders. As shown in some studies, those who used cannabis without a previous alcohol use disorder tended to end up with the condition, and those with the condition previously tended to have it get more intense. Scientists hypothesize that the condition is due to a process of the cannabinoids priming the brain (known as cross-sensitization) both for enhanced effects of further cannabinoid use, as well as that for other drugs.

Whilst many readers may be tempted to hop out of their rolly office chairs and shout “HA!”, I encourage you to wait. The results of these studies not only show that most of those users don’t move onto heavier drugs (unlike prescription opioids!), but also that cross-sensitization is not unique to marijuana. Alcohol and Nicotine are also shown to demonstrate a similar response.

It should also be noted that the source above states what would seem to be obvious . . . people that are vulnerable to drug use are most likely to stick with what is easy to obtain, and that social interactions with other drug users tend to influence these choices. Or to put it in the way of every guidance councillor ever:

Beware the follies of peer pressure! Just say no!”

Having said that, I can’t help but think that my life is a perfect example case of such. Well, sort of. No one has ever truly pressured me into doing anything I didn’t want to do (well, short of dragging my ass into work far more often than is healthy). Every previously defined red line crossed was indeed voluntary. None the less, without having the right people with the right connections present, I may well have not had the chances that I did. As it happened, however, not only were they properly connected, but they were also people I felt comfortable around.

Though they (and really, I) didn’t know it at the time, this may well have been the inspiration for my truly open mind. Without them, I may well have turned out to be just another Jeff Sessions clone.

Information Distribution In The Age Of Algorithms – (Part 6 – Moving Beyond Academic Elitism)

Moving Beyond Academic Elitism

 

As explored, our new media environment has made the world an interesting place to navigate. While it has completely turned the pre-1990’s media model on its head, it has not been without substantial growing pains. Growing pains that are still hard to fully comprehend a decade in.

One could argue that many of these issues could be tied to the inherent hands-off nature that governing entities have generally taken towards the internet. It’s always been full steam ahead, seemingly without evaluating consequences (short OR long term). Well, until very recently anyway.

 

 

From the free speech issues of social media platforms to the ISP’s frowning on having to deal with declining cable subscriptions but rising bandwidth costs associated with digital competitors, it all comes back to the deregulated nature of the beast. Few may have been able to envision the digital space becoming the new public square, nor the demise of legacy television distribution VIA the very same infrastructure in which it operates, but we’re here now. The genie is out of the bottle, and we have to answer some tough questions. To NOT do so only ensures the entities with the most to lose (financially) will continue to stifle innovation in the name of propping up an obsolete business model.

 

 

Because THAT is what private industry does. What is best for the entity is the status quo, come what may. It’s why the internal combustion engine is still the primary mode of transportation of the species.

 

 

But that is a tangent. What is more, on point is how (and why) information becomes widely distributed on these new networks of communication. Because it’s often not on account to merit or validity.

 

 

If my understanding of the typical non-social media engaging academic is anywhere close to being accurate, then this can go one of 2 ways. The first is that this so-called problem is not worth their time. And option 2 (which is more appealing to me, despite being a non-academic) is the notion that there is a place for this sort of thing. There is an established framework in terms of where all of this is discussed, debated and otherwise covered. And that place is generally NOT in the public square. Let alone directly for (or with!) the often scientifically illiterate unwashed masses.

Of everyone in the academic cohort, one of the increasingly more important segments in this area are the philosophers. But they also tend to be some of the most arrogant members of academia in general. Thus, the whole field is left open to the pop-scientists, pop-philosophers and anyone else willing to pay to have a paper published in order to show how gender studies are garbage. Whilst this trio certainly outlined a problem with academia (or at least academic publications), they COMPLETELY dropped the ball on exactly what that problem was. By a country mile.

 

 

To side with the busy academic for a second . . . I get it. I get the hesitation at letting the average citizen into these dialogues. Having a mind honed for academic discipline does not necessarily guarantee superb public speaking ability.

And then there is the issue of jargon. Communication can be accomplished with relative ease when all parties are familiar with the material at hand. However, when the audience consists of laymen (or just people unfamiliar with that area of expertise), further clarification is required. Depending on the subject, possible a WHOLE LOT of clarification. Nuance is a staple of informed and healthy dialogue, but it’s rarely easy to deliver on the fly. A big benefit to those that thrive outside the realm of nuanced reasoning.

 

 

I have run into this wall myself in more than one instance. Not just during the online discourse, but in researching suspected misinformation coming from the anti-GMO crowd and shared widely on social media. Since the 2 sides tend to be so polarized and vested in their own ideology, I didn’t even bother with citing media articles. I opted for the papers themselves. The material that the researchers themselves publish.

Let me tell you . . . what a pain in the ass. No matter how well-meaning a given project or crop may be, I can’t defend what I can’t decipher. Most of the time, one is able to gain some semblance of what’s going on in order to come to a conclusion. But it is a whole lot easier if a version were available that wasn’t primarily an intelligible mess.

 

 

Such an unnecessary barrier has always been ridiculous. But given the state of information sharing today, it has become totally unacceptable. Ignorance. of much of what is contained within the realm of academia is not only a threat to many of these disciplines themselves (think funding cuts), it is also a direct threat to the survival of the species itself. Though the current events of the paradigm in which this was written showcases this threat exceptionally well, it has always been this way. Anytime before, and likely for a long time after.

 

 

Part of this can be attributed to oversights in the education system. Critical thinking skills tend to be left to the back burner (particularly in regions dominated by religious oversight).

When it comes to legacy media mediums (books, television, etc), breaking through this wall of illiteracy proved a formidable challenge. Since it is primarily based around personal choice (choosing what shows to watch, books to read, etc), it can be hard to shoehorn any alternate narrative in. Particularly when the region itself is mostly hostile to anything but the widely accepted narrative.

In this area, new media has an edge over the old. The internet blankets all of these areas equally and (at least at present) does not have any filters to content hostile to local narratives (at least not at the ISP level). In this environment, correctly programmed algorithms can potentially be utilized to serve up the occasional healthy dose of critical analysis in order to lessen the echo chamber and filter bubble effects of correct social media frameworks.

 

 

While that proposal DOES sound a tad creepy and big brother-esk, the fact is that social media is doing this type of thing already. Only rather than steering people in healthy directions (in terms of ideology), current algorithms tend to end in extremist rabbit holes. Because such interactions keep that person’s eyes on THAT platform. And the longer they stay on that platform, the more revenue they can generate through advertising (not to mention data mining).

 

 

 

 

Should quote education friendly algorithms become apart of (or possibly even replace) the financial friendly algorithms that dominate today? If you are one of the people caught in the vortex of the more familiar algorithms, then the answer is an obvious “NO!”.

However, the world no longer has time to bend at the knee to such privileged ignorance. Thus, my solution is to deploy such algorithms. Of course, one runs into the problem of the panicky switching platforms in ALL don’t make the switch. Which would be a good place for regulators to step in. Don’t leave it to the free market to decide based on the marketplace. Mandate, and enforce.

 

 

Such action drastic action warrants the correct material for the purpose be available to distribute. You can’t just start feeding material from the complete opposite of end of the spectrum into peoples filter bubbles, or you will only dig them in deeper. Not to mention that having non-charismatic academics (or academics speaking jargon) won’t be helpful in this new space. What you need is content that is benign enough to not be threatening, yet powerful enough to start making people consider things. In the paradigm of video, a camera-friendly person is half the battle. Given the right presenter, even the most benign and boring material can come to life.

 

 

Whilst there are innumerable examples of the bad side of this equation, the good is often harder to come by. When it comes to a GOOD example of what we should strive for, the best example I can think of is Natalie Wynn, more commonly known as Contrapoints. If I were to compare her to anyone, it would be Marilyn Manson. Despite the seeming controversy-riddled image, this may conj or up, her work tends to be very educational at the core. Where the entertainment and exhibitionism come in, is in keeping us enthralled. Whether the video is 15 or 45 minutes in length.

 

 

This is not to say that every one of academia’s public faces has to be a Marilyn Manson student. All one has to be is captivating. Able to talk to an audience at their level, instead of talking down to them from a pedestal.

 

When it comes to the typical standard of how academia interacts with the world at large, this is extraordinarily unorthodox. None the less, the species has moved far beyond the point in which academic elitism is an acceptable luxury. If tradition is the main barrier to evolving towards a better tomorrow is going to be tradition, then what was the point of the dialogues in the first place?

 

 

Game over.