Monday, April 12, 2021

Michael Sandel's Tyranny of Merit

This excellent read, The Tyranny of Merit, by Harvard philosophy professor Michael Sandel, actually shifted some of my thinking, and I love a good lightbulb moment provoked by a book! I found the book sometimes a little outside my reach in places enough to need to read a few chapters numerous times, but I think I've got the gist of it all.  

In a nutshell, some of us hope that judging people based on their merit makes for a more fair and just system, and the education system can be used as a sorting machine. The promotion of merit and of the sorting tools we use to determine who deserves to rise to the top are seen as part of an open system of global thinking. Rejecting that position, then, it is believed, is clearly aligned with closed-minded thinking, BUT this is all a ruse brought to you by neoliberal politics. It's born of the illusion that we can create a level playing field of equal opportunity, which is a commonly touted argument. Less common, however, is Sandel's captivating argument around what it means to deserve anything and his claim that, even if we could have perfect equality of opportunity, a meritocracy brings with it some nasty side effects: "It would generate hubris and anxiety among the winners and humiliation and resentment among the losers--attitudes at odds with human flourishing and corrosive to the common good" (120). He ends with some plausible but difficult alternatives to our current way of thinking--in education, work, and through contributive justice--which require an entire overhaul of thinking reminiscent of Charles Taylor's notion of social imaginaries: we have to change our beliefs before we'll ever be able to change our behaviours.


MERITOCRACY CAN'T BE REALIZED 

We can't get a fully realized meritocracy. The term was first coined just in 1958 in a dystopian novel; it wasn't originally meant to be seen as a solution or a term of praise. Then in the 80s, Reagan created the belief that "market mechanisms are the primary instruments for achieving the public good" (21) and deregulated banks and businesses under the belief that, "Provided they operate within a fair system of equal opportunity, markets give people what they deserve" (62). Since, in theory, everyone can compete equally (the rhetoric of rising), government helped out by lowering taxes to remove barriers to success, which then provoked a dramatic rise in tuition fees. We tolerate inequalities because of the American Dream that suggests we can't win without some losers beneath us: Everything we do is fair and just provided people worthy have equal opportunities to access higher education; however, governing elites have the "responsibility for creating the conditions that have eroded the dignity of work and left many feeing disrespected and disempowered. . . . upheavals we are witnessing are a political response to a political failure of historic proportions" (19). We're starting to see the light. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

What Should Teachers Do To Prevent Gun Violence?

Lots of us have students who don't quite fit in and spend all their time alone, friendless. They might have been bullied for being different, and we can't always solve the problems they have trying to better communicate with other people. But the vast majority are completely harmless.

Lot of us have students who are really angry. These are teenagers. I was a really angry teenager, outraged at the many injustices I felt I faced in the world. Nothing is fair when you're at the centre of your own world. (I'm still pretty angry, but my focus has shifted to injustices around the globe instead.) Adolescence is a necessary time of self-obsession as people figure out their place in this life, and that can heighten every possible sleight against them, provoking an attitude of quick-tempered defensiveness. But the vast majority are completely harmless.

Lots of us have students who let slip some racist or sexist or bigoted comments in class, and we shut that down but then linger over the comment a bit later, mentally reviewing it and filing it away, and maybe mentioning it to a few colleagues looking for a pattern. But the vast majority are completely harmless.

And lots of us have students with a mean streak: students who are trying out their power, looking out for the boundaries that might be able to reign them in. If they get away with too much, they sometimes keep pushing until a consequence helps them turn a corner. We know it's important to stop cruelty in its tracks, but we can't catch everything. But the vast majority would never consider harm at this level of violence.

But I'm left wondering about all the signs we're told to monitor. Is it remotely useful to psychologically profile students?

On Critical Race Theory

Conservative British MP, Kemi Badenoch, insisted that Critical Race Theory is somehow illegal, so I'm just going to save this rebuttal here: 

This is a Twitter thread from Kojo Koram - @KojoKoram - professor of law Birkbeck: 

"A thread on the new bogeyman of “critical race theory”: Kemi Badenoch. Watching dim-witted Tory junior ministers try to get their heads around the works of Derrick Bell, Patricia Williams and some of the most-decorated legal scholars of the last 50 years would be funny if this wasn’t so serious. Clearly, Google has told them that critical race theory is just people shouting about “white privilege” etc so here is an idiot’s guide to CRT to help: CRT emerged out of Harvard law in the 80’s in an attempt to explain the contradictions between the legal equality achieved through the civil rights struggle and the ongoing visible difference in the impact of the law across racial groups. This is the heart of CRT. Pretty simple isn’t it. There are certainly critiques that can be made of the tradition (I see it as having become too detached from political economy, for one) but to pretend it is a dangerous, illegitimate sphere of academic inquiry is just pathetic. 
CRT started with the material reality. Look at your cities. Look at your prisons. If law is blind, why does property law, criminal law etc seem to punish some groups more than others? You don’t care about this, fine, good for you. But you also want to stop others from caring? The same people who would defend the right of Charles Murray to talk about how Black people have lower IQ’s on the grounds of free speech are now cheering a government banning teachers trying to explain the difference between legal equality and material inequality. In the UK, Black people are stopped + searched nearly 10x white people. 40% of young people in custody are BME. If your explanation for this is anything other than ‘Blacks are just naturally/culturally more criminal’… then congratulations, you have just started doing CRT!"

Monday, March 1, 2021

On Rowling's Transphobia

I was going to just ignore all this, but it came up in a discussion on my social media feed, so here's the thing:

Free speech is absolutely vital in a democracy, especially the freedom to question and criticize elites: people who craft the laws or, maybe more importantly, who provoke the dominant belief system through their pronounced effect on the zeitgeist. You know, like J.K. Rowling.

There is some concern that Rowling has been unfairly dismissed by the dreaded cancel culture since her most recent explanation of her position on the transgender population is very articulate, as if being articulate makes for a solid argument. This illuminates a serious problem in our society: many people don't know how to recognize and counter a bad argument. We're running on the notion that, if it feels like it makes sense, then it must. Nope.

Last January, YouTuber Natalie Wynn was also denigrated online. In a feature length video, she explains cancel culture as, "online shaming, vilifying or ostracizing prominent members of a community". It's a vigilante strategy to topple people in power who can't be held to account in any other way, which can morph into an absolute reign of terror against the person instead of their argument. It's "character assassination disguised by the rhetoric of honest conflict." The collective has terrifying powers that they don't realize as individuals. And we all know what comes with great power.

It doesn't further society when the goal is no longer to reach a better understanding between people, but to destroy people. Instead, we need to take the most charitable understanding of Rowling's claims and scrutinize them for weak reasoning:

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Wallace-Well's The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

David Wallace-Wells's book The Uninhabitable Earth starts out with a repetition of facts that won't be news to anyone paying attention, but he has a lovely way with words.

Four of the last five extinctions were from greenhouse gases, and now we're adding carbon to the atmosphere 100 times faster than at any other time, and "guilt saturates the planet's air as much as carbon, though we choose to believe we do not breathe it" (5). In the last 40 years, more than half the worlds' vertebrate animals have died and the flying insect population declined by three-quarters (26). His focus is largely on humanity, but we'll be taking most other life forms with us when we go. Our continued actions are at the level of a genocide, and the "Kyoto Protocol achieved, practically, nothing; the the twenty years since, despite all of our clime advocacy and legislation and progress on green energy, we have produced more emissions than in the twenty years before" (9). Even if we stop short of the two degree mark, we'll still have a sea-level rise "to draw a new American coastline as far west as I-95" (13). "Our current emissions trajectory takes us over 4 degrees by 2100" (27). At 5 degrees, "Parts of the globe would be literally unsurvivable for humans"(39). And "heat death is among the cruelest punishments to a human body, just as painful and disorienting as hypothermia" (48).

Nathaniel Rich's Losing Earth

This is a quick read outlining the history of the efforts to do something to slow down fossil fuel use. Everything we know now about climate change, pretty much, we knew with great certainty forty years ago, in 1979. "The climate scientist James Hansen has called a 2-degree warming 'a prescription for long-term disaster. Long-term disaster is now the best-case scenario. A 3-degree warming, on the other hand, is a prescription for short-term disaster" (4). 5 degrees will bring the fall of human civilization. "The Red Cross estimates that already more refugees flee environmental crises than violent conflict" (4). We had a great chance to fix it all between 1979 and 1989, but we didn't take it.

WHY NOT?

"The common explanation today concerns the depredations of the fossil fuel industry, which in recent decades has committed to playing the role of villain which comic-book bravado" (6). But the fossil fuel industry was actually on board for a time. There are a whole lot of names and dates to keep straight below (I bolded the important ones), and the book, curiously, has NO index or footnotes! Rich wrote it as a compelling story, but I digest it better chronologically:

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Gertz on Nihilism - What IS it??

A year after coming out with Nihilism and Technology, Dr. Nolen Gertz wrote just plain Nihilism, an "examination of the meaning of meaninglessness: why it matters that nothing matters." It's a really short book, but it took a while to wade through it all. Here it all is even more briefly assembled with my own understanding here and there.

We typically think of nihilism as very simply meaning, "we believe in nothing" (4), but he counters that from the start with the polar opposite definition of Russian nihilism via Wendell Phillips in 1881: "the righteous and honorable resistance of a people crushed under an iron rule . . . the last weapon of victims choked and manacled beyond all other resistance" (2),  and then takes us through Western philosophy to get to a view that, "Nihilism is about evading reality rather than confronting it, about believing in other worlds rather than accepting this one, and about trying to make ourselves feel powerful rather than admitting our own weaknesses" (73).


SOME HISTORY

I didn't love this epistemology section, but the book picks up speed afterwards. 

First, on Socrates, Descartes, and Hume and nihilism via our inability to know stuff: Anti-nihilists "inspire others to question and ultimately reject the foundations of their beliefs" (21). Socrates (a social reformer) provoked people to question everything. Then Descartes (a self-reformer) warned that can lead to "inextricable darkness" (21). "For Descartes we embrace illusions because our reach exceeds our grasp, because our desire to know (the will) exceeds our power to know (the intellect)" (22). Then he gets to Hume's fork: For Hume, we can only know things we experience directly and things that are true by definition, and, Hume famously said, all else must be committed to the flames, so  "supporting an idea may not be so different from supporting a sports team" (25). Gertz's conclusion so far: "From a Socratic perspective, nihilism can be overcome by enlightenment. From a Cartesian perspective, nihilism can be overcome by self-restraint. But from a Humean perspective, nihilism cannot be overcome. It is simply a product of human psychology" (28). 

On McQuaig's Sport and Prey of Capitalists

Linda McQuaig's newest book, The Sport and Prey of Capitalists: How the Rich are Stealing Canada's Public Wealth, is a fast read full of local history and written as history should be written, as colourful stories about fascinating people! But, in order to try to remember any of it, I've whittled it down to the bare bones here. She comes down hard on Trudeau, both of them, and for good reason, but takes a generally non-partisan role in exploring the good and bad players in our history.

Her concern throughout: "We've failed to appreciate our heritage as a nation that has embraced public enterprise to great effect" (6). Then she traces our gradual acceptance, at a huge cost to our country, of the neoliberal policies of deregulation, privatization, and union busting through the history of specific industries affecting Canada today: the banking system, tar sands, railways, 407, hydro, and medicines.


Saturday, November 28, 2020

Hannah Arendt's On Violence

Unfortunately, this is really timely.

Arendt wrote this short book in 1970, but there's nothing in it that needs to be updated today. Absolutely nothing significant has changed; it's just more. She was responding to the violence of WWII, Vietnam, the student riots in Paris, and, most specifically, the People's Park protests in Berkeley, where she was teaching at the time as students attempted "transforming an empty university-owned lot into a 'People's Park'." Sheldon Wolin and John Schaar wrote about how the event unleashed an unnecessarily strong police backlash:
"A rock was thrown from a roof-top and, without warning, police fired into a group on the roof of an adjacent building. Two persons were struck in the face by the police fire, another was blinded, probably permanently, and a fourth, twenty-five-year-old James Rector, later died. Before the day was over, at least thirty others were wounded by police gunfire, and many more by clubs. . . . Tear gas enfolded the main part of the campus and drifted into many of its buildings, as well as into the surrounding city. Nearby streets were littered with broken glass and rubble. At least six buckshot slugs entered the main library and three 38 calibre bullets lodged in the wall of a reference room in the same building. Before the day ended, more than ninety people had been injured by police guns and clubs."
That was on May 15, 1969, known as "Bloody Thursday." The Kent State shootings in Ohio were almost exactly one year later. Arendt tries to make sense of it all through a look at the changing view of violence in society.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Hedges on Revolution, Media, Prison, Corruption, and Hope

Chris Hedges, a former war correspondent for the New York Times - until they didn't like his anti-American coverage of the Iraq invasion - and an ordained minister, recently walked away (or was fired) from Truthdig in solidarity with Bob Scheer, and now he's in the middle of writing a book, but he spent an hour and a half talking about everything on The Jimmy Dore Show. I've transcribed some key points below under headings, with links and images. It's a little abridged and in a slightly altered order for clarity and brevity, and I also bolded pivotal statements for faster skimming!

On a Revolution Against the Corrupt System:

Hedges: We need to overthrow this system, not placate it. Revolution is almost always a doomed enterprise one that succeeds only when its leaders issue the practical and are endowed with what the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr calls sublime madness. Sanders lacks this quality and for this reason Sanders is morally and temperamentally unfit to lead this fight. (Also see Kate Manne on Sanders.)

Friday, February 21, 2020

Cancel Culture, Academic Freedom, and Disability Rights

I've written before about how I support free speech but don't support giving platforms to "White Nationalists" or neo-Nazis or any other racist group who could use the venue to garner more followers. My concern is with audience members who might be easily led or looking for a place to direct their saved up anger. I believe we must act together to ensure that racist or bigoted values don't get amplified. People aren't barred from speaking and sharing their views otherwise, but I'm fine if they are denied a stage, particularly in a public arena. It's not just that I don't like their views, but that I fear that their views, if accepted by a greater number of people, could normalize harmful actions and threaten the safety and security of my friends and neighbours.

But Peter Singer??

Here's a bit of background on this ethics philosopher. He is, if it's possible, the direct opposite of a neo-Nazi. He's all about decreasing suffering worldwide! He advocates for vegetarianism and goes so far as to suggest that, to live a truly ethical life, we should take any extra money just sitting in our bank accounts and donate it to charity to alleviate global poverty. He's ever concerned with us living the best life we can have in the most ethical way possible. But one of his many arguments around alleviating suffering, from a chapter in a book he wrote back in 1979, Practical Ethicsis about the right of parents to euthanize severely disabled infants. Disability activist groups want this view shut down.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

On Martin Luther King Jr.

Chomsky praises him, saying he was vilified, but he was crucial to making change. Two years ago, the New York Times published an excellent transcript of his final sermon, annotated by Nikita Stewart to clarify the events that provoked some of his words. It's his "I've been to the mountaintop" speech made four years after the Civil Rights Act passed, and one day before his death. Here's an abridged version (or listen to it in full here). The bold is all mine; his words have been repeated by Chomsky and Hedges and Timothy Snyder. Hopefully we'll listen one day.
It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today. And also in the human rights revolution, if something isn’t done, and done in a hurry, to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty, their long years of hurt and neglect, the whole world is doomed. . . . 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Chomsky's Optimism: On Climate Change, Nuclear War, and Activism

Truthdig's Scheer Intelligence series, hosted by Robert Scheer, recently posted a 3 hour podcast in two parts. I've summarized the gist of what Chomsky says below, in about a 15 minute read, with a few of my own thoughts and links added to the mix. You can listen to the whole thing here: Part 1 - "American has built a global dystopia" and Part 2 - "Chomsky makes the case for the lesser of two evils."

This is largely quoted but without asides and repetition of words or ideas to make it more fluid, and with headings for easier scrolling through bite-sized chunks!


OUR SURVEILLANCE STATE:

Scheer starts by asking Chomsky if we're in the middle of Huxley's Brave New World or Orwell's 1984. Chomsky offers a third option: We, by Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin. It's an amalgamation of Huxley and Orwell. We have tight surveillance, but we're also controlled through punishment and shame. Cars with screens in them know your shopping habits and will let you know if there's a Chinese restaurant nearby to manipulate your choices. There's also a move to control people at work through a point system. [It's Black Mirror's "Nosedive" episode.] The internet of things isn't just a convenience for you, but for the government and multi-national surveillance of you. There's no wall between Google, Amazon, and the government.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Game Changers - Scrutinizing Some Questionable Claims

I've come to believe that determining the very best diet is as individual as figuring out the best course of action to treat anxiety or depression. We are each our own guinea pig. Individually, we each have to try a few things, gradually, while monitoring our energy levels, abilities, and general feelings of good health and wellbeing, to see what actually works for us. That takes time to get right. I was raised on meat and potatoes, but then I read Diet for a Small Planet when I was a teenager, and it convinced me to eat low on the food chain. Ever since, I lean towards fruits, vegetables, and grains with the occasional brick of cheese melted on top, and an even less frequent gorge on chicken wings. After having cancer and reading many studies on the correlation between animal consumption and cancers, I hesitate to eat animal products quite so much. To clarify, I still eat them because ... yum!, but I sit with some cognitive dissonance each time. I clear my conscience with my favourite salad: a bowl of raw vegetables smothered in cilantro and basil, no dressing. I don't get repeat invites to potlucks.

I just watched The Game Changers (their sources are here), and I'm going to try to sort out the fact from fiction in the film as well as in some of the many 'debunkings' I've found, which are sometimes equally suspect.

It's fascinating to me how often passion overrules reason in these discussions. What is it about food that makes people swing to the extremes? I've written before about even the brilliant Chris Hedges getting sucked into some weak evidence, and I've met many reasonable people who don't see any problems with some of dubious claims on only this issue. There's often an outrage just below the surface of these docs that suggest that, if you don't believe it, then either you're a horrible person or a complete idiot. I'm not convinced by the outrage. I'm not a nutritionist, and I'm definitely not a foody, but I do have a background in research methods and in logic and critical thinking. And some claims made in this field, on both sides of the aisle, are really problematic. Full disclosure, I have been vegetarian a couple times, for a few years each time, but I've never even tried to be vegan despite opening my classroom doors for a plant based club each week. Maybe this is the time to give it a shot.

Pre-COP25 Panel of Speakers: the Intersection of Climate and Race

It was great timing for the a climate strike, on Black Friday, with COP 25 starting in Chile - scratch that - Madrid starting on Monday.


It's a really hard sell to get a protest going on a cold day. There were about 200 people there, which was great, but it could be better, couldn't it. We can't have field trips to the protests, but could I book a field trip to see a movie and then accidentally get side tracked on the way?? Oh look, that protest is today too. Let's check it out for a minute! I have to say, it's really cool when you're at a march and suddenly a huge group of people join at once. It's like the cavalry coming in to save the day!



The protest started with an indigenous smudging ceremony, drumming and singing from Idle No More. Some dancing in unison, holding hands with the strangers next to us, can be so useful for developing community. It's necessary to be part of something bigger than ourselves if we're going to tackle something this huge. The speakers outside the mall had the power cut by Primus Property Management, even though, as far as I know, they had booked the area just like any other group. But a megaphone was passed to them, and they continued. Then we marched down the middle of the street instead of sticking to the sidewalks. That felt more like a real march. There was a panel of speakers waiting for us at a nearby church. The event ended with an Extinction Rebellion disruption at the mall. Kudos to the organizers for such an incredibly smooth event!! But about that panel...

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

On French Immersion

The Agenda with Steve Paikin had a segment on French Immersion in the schools in September 2016. The panel raised some interesting points but neglected a few issues.

A Bit of a Summary (skip down for more interesting bits)

The guests were Caroline Alfonso, an education reporter for the Globe & Mail (with a young child in immersion), Stuart Miller, the director of education (in Halton), John Lorinc, a journalist with older kids who went through immersion, and Mary Cruden the President of the Canadian Parents for French. Despite the fact that the show is titled, "The Problems with French Immersion," the journalist seemed the only critic of the current program with some concerns that led to one of his kids changing streams.  Miller raised some issues with the cost to run the program born of the fact that some schools are left with only four or five kids in the English stream, and with the unequal access to the program. It's costly to run a class with such small numbers. But elsewhere he praised the educational benefits of a second language.

Enrollment in immersion programs is increasing across Canada, and Paikin asked the panel why so many parents want their kids in immersion. Alfonso and Cruden suggested parents want to have an extra tool in their tool basket, a leg up on the competition to give the kids an edge. Paikin offered that it might have something to do with being a proud Canadian, as was Trudeau-the-elder's dream almost fifty years ago, but nobody bit at that one. From this panel's perspective, parents put their kids in immersion to get them ahead of the curve. The fact that many students don't make it to the end didn't seem to phase the guests. They believe that early intervention is key to greater success in the long run.

According to Miller, immersion students don't do significantly better or worse in the long run, however an article in Macleans disagrees (but without links or references to see the studies):

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Social Media: the Greatest Propaganda Machine in History

Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Ali G. and Borat, among others) won an award from the Anti-Defamation League. Here's his 25 minute acceptance speech. It's in writing, abridged a bit, below the video if you'd rather skim than watch. (Emphasis is mine.)



"Today, around the world, demagogues appeal to our worst instincts. Conspiracy theories, once confined to the fringe, are going mainstream. It's as if the age of reason, the era of evidential argument is ending and now knowledge is increasing delegitimized, and scientific consensus is dismissed. Democracy, which depends on shared truths, is in retreat, and autocracy, which depends on shared lies, is on the march. Hate crimes are surging . . .  What do these dangerous trends have in common? . . . All this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history. . . .

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Paul Gorski on Education and Inequity

For the first time in 28 years of teaching, I approve of the new guru being brought to the masses from on high. Immediately, from just the first few seconds of the  video we were compelled to watch for some force-fed professional development, I knew this guy was different. The sound was poor quality, and it was clearly homemade using a laptop camera and mic; there was nothing slick or polished about it in the least. That is high praise coming from me.

Paul Gorski is Associate Professor at New Century College. Beyond being an author of several books and magazine articles, he is the primary author of many articles published in journals (albeit low ranking or unranked - at least they're his own studies). And he, like me, rails against many of the ideas teachers have been told to embrace over the years, like the whole the Grit Movement. I think growth mindset fits the same "deficit" criticisms as is outlined further here, and in this tweet:


Elsewhere he adds in Emotional Intelligence and Cultural Competence. They all run into the same problem: Telling people they just need a different mindset or more grit to do better in school denies, in the most condescending way, the reality that people who are marginalized are often models of resilience and grit. They've overcome more obstacles before breakfast than the rest of us have to manage all day. He explains further in this paper,

Are Grades Harmful to Students?

A bold claim was made to me recently that giving students grades on assignments and tests actually impedes their ability to self-assess their work. It's a big deal when an educator insists that what you've done for years is actually harming the ability for your students to achieve to their potential. The winds have shifted again, and there's another movement coming, this time to restrict grading student work with anything beyond descriptive feedback. I think that number or letter grade is actually important to student success, and that initial claim requires some scrutiny.

Student Self-Assessment

One goal in teaching anything is to get the learner to a point where they can recognize whether or not they are achieving with excellence. Absolutely! In some areas, excellence is easier to see than others. If you're learning to swim, then excellence at a specific level might be measured by the ability to swim one length without touching the bottom of the pool. That's a marker that's easy for the novice to recognize just by the feel of whether or not their feet touched bottom. But other learning is more difficult to assess as clearly. If a student is learning to dance, or learning a new language, or learning to argue a philosophical position, the student can easily feel like they've master the new skill, yet be completely mistaken. This is what makes So You Think You Can Dance so entertaining (or just sad).

Monday, May 6, 2019

On Seeing Jane Goodall

A post in which I gush a bit about it all.

Jane came to my city last Wednesday night. I had so much to do this week, but I had the tickets already, so I went begrudgingly. Yet when she walked on stage, I surprised myself by getting a bit teary. It's a curious reaction to meeting a pivotal role model from my childhood, someone whose life I envied right up there with Farley Mowat's life (possibly) in Never Cry Wolf. And I didn't even meet her - we were one row from the furthest point from the stage. But still...

She radiates warmth and humour and genuine kindness. She embodies love and patience. She speaks slowly and deliberately as she sipped from a flask of whiskey throughout the evening. She's on a tour of speaking engagements which she does without taking a speaker's fee so that all the proceeds can go to saving habitat and animals and people. She's living a truly ethical life; she should be revered as a wise woman, an elder - one of very few who might be able to guide us out of this mess.




And here's what she told us (loosely paraphrased unless in quotation marks):