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Articles by Nathan Wyeth

Nathan Wyeth is a junior at Brown University in Providence, R.I. He is active with the Sierra Student Coalition, the student-run arm of the Sierra Club.

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  • Oil and the status of women in the Middle East

    I'm not sure this falls under my "campus news" beat for Grist, but I heard it at a seminar at a college campus, and it's compelling enough that I'm going to say that because it falls within academia, it counts. Michael Ross is a political scientist at UCLA who was published in the February 2008 American Political Science Review with the assertion (PDF) that much of the gender inequality in the Middle East relative to the rest of the world can be explained not by traditional Islam, but by the presence of oil.

    Photo: iStockphoto
    Photo: iStockphoto

    The quick version is that Ross makes a strong case that women are hurt by a previously unappreciated effect of the infamous "resource curse" that imperils democracy in countries with abundant fossil fuels.

  • Schools should be talking about climate change solutions

    At some point in the 1980s or 1990s, environmental issues became hopelessly and depressingly politicized. By "politicized," I mean it stopped being acceptable to talk about environmental issues in, for instance, a high-school setting, in the same way that evolution was made into a controversial subject to talk about in many school settings. I'm not sure when I would pinpoint that this politicization really sunk in, but I'd be interested in what those who were around at that point might have to say. By the Republican revolution of 1994 -- around the time I first became aware of something called "politics" -- this seems to have already definitively taken place.

    But in the past of couple years, while it has remained fairly partisan, climate change has been rapidly depoliticizing as an issue. Even with a former Democratic vice president as its standard-bearer, it's now acceptable for companies, organizations, and institutions that would never consider taking what they see to be a political stance on an environmental issue -- or any other issue not directly concerning their core business -- to take a stance on climate change.

    In my role as a grassroots organizer with a student environmental organization, it has only recently become possible to approach a wide variety of potential coalition partners for the very first time. My organization could never have approached a typical university president to register the school's public opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- but we can and do approach hundreds to work on climate change.

    This is phenomenally important in repositioning the environmental movement beyond its role in the '90s as a "special interest." It's an immense boon to anyone trying to figure out how to spark the political moment that could result in good clean-energy legislation getting to the president's desk, and the society-wide coalition that will succeed in getting her or him to sign it.

    I'd measure the completion of this depoliticization process to be when primary and secondary schools start including climate change -- and then carbon reductions and clean energy -- in their curricula, assemblies, and more. I'm not talking about when high schools stop teaching kids that there's a scientific climate debate -- I mean when they take the only step a responsible educator could take and ask students to consider this: Now that we have a problem, what are the solutions to this problem?

    Obviously, we're not there yet.

  • Drug-addicted philanderer mocks civically engaged young Alaskan

    We already knew that right-wing commentator Mark Steyn of the National Review enjoys belittling children's health problems and that right-wing bloggers attacked Graeme Frost's family when he spoke up for children's health insurance. But it seems that being mean to kids is becoming a kind of bizarre hobby of the right-wing media.

    This weekend, 5,500 students from across the nation came to the nation's capitol for Powershift 2007, the first national youth summit on climate change -- and the solutions to it. Yesterday, upwards of 3,000 people packed into the offices of members of Congress to press them for action to stop climate change with clean energy development that'll create 5 million new green-collar jobs. More on that in a later post.

    Representative Ed Markey invited five young people to testify before the House Select Committee on Global Warming and Energy Independence, one of which was 18-year-old Cheryl Charlee Lockwood, a Yup'ik Eskimo from the community of St. Michaels on the Bering Sea. (Footage available here.)

    Here's what she told the committee:

  • Students organize summit on climate change

    You know how some days you just get so wrapped up with those new Facebook apps that you barely notice when columnists in the nation's newspaper of note are talking shit about you behind your back? Earlier this month, Tom Friedman wrote:

    America needs a jolt of the idealism, activism and outrage ... of Generation Q [for "Quiet"]. That's what twentysomethings are for -- to light a fire under the country. But they can't email it in, and an online petition or a mouse click for carbon neutrality won't cut it ...

    Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy didn't change the world by asking people to join their Facebook crusades or to download their platforms. Activism can only be uploaded, the old-fashioned way -- by young voters speaking truth to power, face to face, in big numbers, on campuses or the Washington Mall.

    Big numbers? Washington Mall? Why haven't students thought of this before? Oh, wait: