La lucha palestina es nuestra lucha: Declaración de SftP

Mientras lamentamos las vidas perdidas debido al recrudecimiento de la violencia contra Palestina y sus gentes nos preguntamos en profundidad, ¿por qué está pasando lo que está pasando en Gaza?

El Ministro de Seguridad Nacional de Israel, un ultranacionalista instigador de la violencia condenado ocho veces, incluso por cargos de disturbios y apoyo a una organización terrorista, a quien en su día se prohibió servir en el ejército israelí, está al mando de su aparato de seguridad.

El Ministro de Finanzas de Israel declaró su intención de “ser cruel”, habló de los palestinos como “animales humanos” y estableció el plan para privar a Gaza de alimentos, combustible y agua.

Gaza, hogar de dos millones de personas, la mitad de ellas niñas y niños, y que desde 2007 es una prisión al aire libre sitiada por el Estado israelí de extrema derecha, está ahora mismo bajo bombardeos aéreos incesantes que exponen a la gente y al medio ambiente a sustancias químicas tóxicas como el fósforo blanco. 

El Primer Ministro de Israel dejó claro el objetivo de su gobierno de evacuar a 1,1 millones de palestinos en el norte de Gaza, lo que, según él, es “sólo el comienzo”. Se trata de una masacre y limpieza étnica premeditadas.

Los gobiernos de Estados Unidos, Reino Unido, Francia, Italia y Alemania rápidamente prometieron su “apoyo firme y unido” a Israel, cuyos líderes ahora están ayudando y apoyando este genocidio.

 Esta injusticia histórica no ha ocurrido de forma aislada. Es la culminación de un proyecto sionista de un siglo de duración facilitado por la clase capitalista en todo el Norte Global a través de la máquina de guerra militar-industrial que se beneficia de la desposesión y destrucción de la tierra palestina. A través de los principales medios de comunicación que se alimentan de la deshumanización del pueblo palestino, borrando su historia y convirtiendo los sentimientos de humanidad en pretextos para la barbarie. A través del desarrollo tecnocientífico (del que todo el aparato científico-tecnológico es cómplice y nosotros y nosotras como trabajadores del mismo, también), financiado y canalizado para reforzar el aparato de apartheid de Israel. Y a través de la hipocresía del mundo académico occidental, que, a pesar de todos sus valores profesados de “antirracismo” y “descolonización”, continúa aceptando y legitimando la colonización.

Por lo tanto, es nuestro deber como miembros de Ciencia para el Pueblo –una organización nacida de la lucha contra las atrocidades estadounidenses en Vietnam, con predecesores que lucharon contra el apartheid en Sudáfrica, contra los regímenes fascistas en toda América Latina y, sobre todo, contra el imperialismo estadounidense– tomar medidas concretas en este terrible momento y plantar las semillas del cambio revolucionario.

1) Como científicos y científicas, debemos educarnos con análisis profundos y exhaustivos de la historia, las circunstancias y las estructuras. La lucha contra la colonización siempre ha sido librada por personas de todas las etnias y religiones, y al sionismo históricamente se han opuesto líderes, científicos y activistas judíos de izquierda. Nos solidarizamos inequívocamente con el pueblo palestino y condenamos los más de setenta y cinco años de crímenes sionistas que han desembocado en este genocidio.

2) Como trabajadores y trabajadoras dentro del complejo académico-industrial, los productos de nuestro trabajo son subsumidos por fuerzas sistémicas y utilizados para la guerra, lo que nos impulsa a reflexionar sobre nosotros mismos y las instituciones para las que trabajamos. ¿Cuánta financiación ha recibido nuestra institución de fundaciones con objetivos explícitamente sionistas? ¿Se relaciona esto con la insensibilidad hacia estudiantes palestinos que recientemente se han manifestado en sus instituciones universitarias sobre los acontecimientos que se desarrollan en Gaza? ¿Qué técnicas, ideología o ambas simultáneamente (como en el intento de biologización de la raza judía) se han desarrollado en cualquier campo de estudio, bajo las limitaciones impuestas por nuestro propio sistema colonial, para mantener el status quo? ¿Cómo han sostenido el Estado israelí y sus aliados occidentales la noción de “progreso” en nombre de la ciencia para enmascarar el retroceso de su colonialidad? Este momento revela la urgente necesidad y oportunidad de lograr un mayor nivel de conciencia política entre científicas y científicos. Debemos acelerar este proceso.

3) Como activistas y promotores de actividades sociales, la reflexión sobre nuestra complicidad apenas alcanza el mínimo requerido. ¿Qué podemos hacer como organización para apoyar materialmente la causa palestina? ¿Qué podemos aportar a los y las compañeras en primera línea que están resistiendo los abusos racistas y orientalistas? ¿Cómo podemos resistir la apropiación de la ciencia y la tecnología por parte de los colonizadores? Dentro del mundo académico, somos testigos de cómo se ahogan las voces pro Palestina y de que aquellas personas que se atreven a hablar contra el genocidio son procesadas, despedidas o silenciadas en beneficio de los intereses políticos y económicos del Estado de apartheid israelí y de las corporaciones transnacionales que se benefician de la ocupación. ¿Cómo conectamos nuestra propia lucha de clases contra el complejo académico-industrial con la defensa local de los derechos palestinos y los movimientos de liberación global? Existe una necesidad urgente y una oportunidad de educar, movilizar, organizar y proteger a quienes dicen la verdad, de luchar contra el sionismo y de desarrollar la militancia sindical e internacionalista entre las clases oprimidas. 

La lucha palestina es nuestra lucha. La ciencia insurgente exige de sus practicantes claridad de pensamiento y coraje para actuar. SftP hace un llamamiento a todos los miembros y simpatizantes a buscar colectivamente estrategias concretas hacia la liberación de Palestina.

Palestine is Our Struggle: SftP Statement

En Español | يمكنك قرائة هذا البيان بالعربية هنا

As all of us mourn the lives lost to the latest upsurge of violence, how do we appropriately understand what has been happening in the past few days in Gaza?

Israel’s National Security Minister, an ultra-nationalist instigator of violence convicted eight times including on charges of rioting and supporting a terrorist organization, once prohibited from serving in the Israeli military, is now in command of its security apparatus.

Israel’s Finance Minister declared the intent “to be cruel,” spoke of Palestinians as “human animals,” and enunciated the plan to deprive Gaza of food, fuel, and water. 

Gaza, an open-air prison under siege by the extreme-right Israeli state since 2007, home to two million people, half of them children, is now under nonstop aerial bombardment that exposes the people and environment to toxic chemicals like white phosphorus.

Israel’s Prime Minister made clear its government’s aim of emptying out 1.1 million Palestinians in northern Gaza, which he claims is “only the beginning.” 

This is a premeditated massacre and cleansing of an Indigenous population. 

The governments of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Germany all quickly pledged their “steadfast and united support” of Israel, whose leaders are now stepping up their implementation of genocide.

Such historic injustice has not occurred in isolation. It is the culmination of a century-long Zionist project facilitated by the capitalist class across the Global North: through the military-industrial war machine that profits from dispossession and destruction of Palestinian land; through the mainstream media that feed off dehumanizing the Palestinian people, erasing their history, and turning sentiments of humanity into pretexts for barbarity; through technoscientific development—which we as scientists and engineers are complicit in—funded by and funneled into bolstering the apartheid apparatus of Israel; as well as through the hypocrisy of Western academia, which, for all its professed values of “anti-racism” and “decolonization,” continues to acquiesce to settler-colonialism.

It is therefore our duty as members of Science for the People—an organization born out of the struggle against US atrocities in Vietnam, with predecessors who fought against apartheid South Africa, fascist regimes across Latin America, and above all, US imperialism—to take concrete steps in this dark moment and plant the seeds of revolutionary change.

1) As scientists, we must inform our politics through deep and thorough analyses of history, circumstances, and structures. The struggle against colonization has always been fought by people of all ethnicities and religions, and Zionism has historically been opposed by left-wing Jewish leaders, scientists, and activists. We stand unequivocally in solidarity with the Palestinian people and condemn the seventy-five plus years of Zionist crimes that led to this genocide. 

2) As workers within the academic-industrial complex, the products of our labor are subsumed by systemic forces and co-opted for war, which prompts us to reflect on ourselves and the institutions we work for. How much funding has an institution received from foundations with explicitly Zionist aims, and does this correlate with the callousness toward Palestinian students in recent university statements on the events unfolding in Gaza? What techniques, ideology, or both concurrently (as in the attempted biologization of the Jewish race) have been developed in any given field of study, under constraints set by our own settler-colonial system, to uphold the status quo? How has the notion of “progress” in the name of science been propped up by the Israeli state and its Western allies to mask the retrogression of their coloniality? This moment reveals the urgent need and opportunity to achieve a higher level of political consciousness among scientists. We must accelerate this process.

3) As activists and organizers, reflection on our complicity barely reaches the minimum of what’s required. What can we do as an organization to materially support the Palestinian cause? What can we contribute to our coalition partners at the frontline that are weathering racist and Orientalist abuses? How to resist the appropriation of science and technology by the colonizers? Within academia, we witness pro-Palestine voices being drowned out and those that dare speak out against genocide being prosecuted, fired, or silenced at the behest of political and economic interests of the Israeli apartheid state and transnational corporations that profit from the Occupation. How do we connect our own class struggle against the academic-industrial complex with local advocacy for Palestinian rights and the global liberation movements? There is an urgent need and opportunity to educate, agitate, organize, protect those who speak the truth, push back against Zionism, build labor militancy and internationalism among oppressed classes.

The Palestinian struggle is our struggle. Radical science demands of its practitioners clarity of thought and courage for action. SftP calls on all members and supporters to collectively pursue concrete strategies toward the liberation of Palestine.

Get involved and act now.

Home is Where the Heart (and Other Organs) is: A New Approach to an Old Problem: The Genetics of Homelessness

Biosketch of Principal Investigator (PI): Prof. Dr. Imasory Shabi is not simply a proper noun. No, he is a verb. An active, ongoing movement that has focused his energies to push the barriers of our understanding of human torment forward into the sunny, happy future. Humble startings with a BMSc. Specialization in Molecular Genetic Ultimatums at Herverd first caught his attention and soon led to a double PhD in Genes and Genetics at MITT. In this short wake lay the first papers to implicate genetic mechanisms into human tendency to buy medium over large, putative molecular therapies to correct this stinginess, and a clear leap over the need for a postdoctoral fellowship. Instead, Shabi  landed right in an Assistant Professorship in the Department of Economic Biology at Sitford. Only as the head of a lab did he find the berth to stretch into genetic origins of the dislike for thinning hair, cargo shorts, and mobile gambling applications. We look forward to his ongoing work with Robert Dockins as to the evolutionary pressures producing these genetic selections. Supported by the Wulson and Rishton professorship for Clarity in a Complicated World, we suspect Shabi will be with us for long to come.

Introduction

Homelessness is a problem. A recent meta-analytic report published in Nature uncovered that homelessness was “a lot” now and potentially “more” in the near future (Nature, 2022). Historically, however, the study of homelessness has been squandered from science, caught in the feelings and qualities of the social sciences, humanities, and non-academics. These interesting researchers have collectively defined homelessness as the, “lack of living in a home”. Although seemingly satisfactory to most of society, this diagnostic definition suffers from a growing problem in non-medical research, environmental determinism.

To demonstrate the fallacy of environmental determinism, I ask you humbly, do we diagnose cancer simply because someone occupies a bed in a cancer treatment centre? No, no we don’t (we diagnose them because they have cancer). Is blindness diagnosed by one’s simple presence in an optometrist’s office? Again, no (lots of people who can see will occupy the same office). Finally, can we diagnose a heart attack by a rushed moment in an emergency room? Not at all. Following this latest inane assumption, my son Andy, who sliced open his forearm after falling on our push mower one fateful April morning, would be diagnosed as suffering a heart attack. Following this latest inane assumption further, Andy would be receiving heart attack drugs unnecessarily. In summary, environmental determinism is a metaphorical road to wasted money, youth, and insight. Yet environmentally defined homelessness stands strong when the problem needs to be treated the most.

An environmentally deterministic explanation for homelessness also clashes with pre-existing data on the condition. Namely, homeless people tend to exhibit lower IQ (Smort et al., 2021), more body hair (Gilettes et al., 1987), more drug use (Blowe & Meph, 2004), less body weight (Paylayton et al., 2013), and significantly lower Cumulative Health Factor (CHF; Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, personal communication) compared to volunteer undergraduates across North American universities. All of these impacted traits are derived from within the homeless body, not attributed to some imaginary, environmental taint suffered during prolonged exposure to air outside of a house. Accordingly, I propose here to challenge a once un-challengable paradigm with my simple voice and a basic logic: homelessness is a disease, not a condition, environment, or un-fortune. Like all diseases, the issues are trapped inside the body, not outside under a bridge or behind Olive Garden. In this proposal, I outline 3 experimental approaches as vital steps to develop the disease status of homelessness, including a review of preliminary data that has been gathered already for each approach.

With a new, biological locus for research on homelessness comes a new locus for treatment of homelessness. I propose my work will pave novel routes to medical interventions that treat homelessness at its source, the body, revealing unrealistic, non-scientific dreams of affordable housing, incompatible with the beliefs and freedoms of many others, as an ever-impossible solution. I propose a future of housing that is coming without the need for a single sheet of drywall.

Experiment 1 – Establishing a vertebrate model of homelessness

The overly social, environmentally determinant explanation of homelessness referred to above relies on the problematic belief that homelessness is a uniquely human phenomenon. This assumption floats loudly unspoken among decades of research, I believe in part at least, because it has never been tested. Humans have always been the only experimental subject in the study of homelessness.

Not to borrow logic too heavily from my introduction above, but do we assume humans are the only species capable of jumping when we ignore the cricket? The toad? Maybe a deer? We don’t. We recognize the importance of comparative research, where we step away from the university and search the world over, recording the beautiful diversity of animal behaviour the Earth has born to compare to our own. From novel discoveries including the social capacities of spiders (Pruitt et al., 2004) to rhesus monkeys understanding syllabic patterning (Hauser et al., 2008), it is only by reaching far into the feral, untamed wild that we can find homologous behaviours beyond our selfish selves. For this reason, my first experimental approach is to establish a reliable vertebrate model of homelessness: the genetically amicable and convenient lab mouse.

Rationale: Mice live in homes. Whether a hole under a tree in a forest, a hole in a closet owing to ill-fitting floorboards, or the classic cage of the laboratory, mice seemingly love to be housed (perhaps following some natural tendency ingrained in their nature [personal observation]). This tendency supports the study of mice as an opportunity to study the exceptions: the mice refusing to persist in shelter. But do these exceptions exist? Let’s find out.

Methods: Our laboratory mice have been raised for generations to inhabit the cage. Simple, transparent, and reliably produced, the mouse cage presents an ideal shelter for experiments to identify mice that may eschew this very home safety. A clean, sterile testing room is fitted with 25 new, washed mice cages of the same design and dimensions, spaced evenly across the floor. Each cage (house) will be fitted with an exercise wheel, sawdust bedding, a rodent water bottle, and food pellets. Out of a fear that these amenities will confound a test of pure homelessness, we have provisioned similar resources outside of the cages, including water as “puddles” (refilled thrice daily), exercise inherently present in traversing the space between cages, and food pellets provided in taller, narrow food dishes, representative of garbage cans (a vessel consistent with our understanding of human homelessness). Once set up, 50 randomly selected, clonal lab mice will be released into the room and given a week to acclimate to the new, yet familiar, environment. To follow individual mice, their identifier (a name) is written using a permanent marker on their sides. From one week of acclimation onward, mice will be observed via wireless camera and one-way mirror by researchers to score housing status throughout each day. Mice who ultimately spend nights in a cage will be classified as “homed” and mice that spend nights in the “streets” (external to cages) will be classified as “homeless”. As we hypothesize that homeless mice are real, we outnumbered the number of mice to cages as a means of expediting the identification of each group of individuals.

Preliminary results: Using the above methodology and a monitoring period of a week of days (7 days), we successfully categorized upwards of half of our mouse population as “homeless”. Homeless mice were characterized by night behaviour avoidant of any housing/caging throughout most of the week. Interestingly, we noticed significantly higher levels of fatality in the homeless population (homeless deaths throughout the week n = 10; homed deaths throughout the week n = 0), however, elevated fatality during homelessness is completely supported by similar work on humans (Streete et al., 2004). This commonality suggests we were not only accessing a similar behaviour in mice but also that homelessness shares a physiological impact on the lives of mice as it does in humans. In conclusion, our paradigm works to effectively identify homelessness in lab mice. With a homeless sample identified, we next ask if this sample can be used to investigate the biological causes leading to these anti-homing tendencies.

Experiment 2 – Identifying genetic factors associated with mouse homelessness

Rationale: Genes play a role in all biological functions and can be considered to act as a primary mechanism in the production of, among all things, behaviour and cognition (Willson, 1989). Accordingly, we propose to ask if homeless mice identified in our preliminary work in Experiment 1 would exhibit consistent changes in gene expression from homed mice. This approach seems violently at odds with a sociological understanding of homelessness, but in fact will expand our historic understanding of housing deep within the individual, where powerful modern biotechnology aims its medical treatments. Accordingly, we look to use this approach to build a bridge to a new treatment for the homeless.

Methods: At the end of the behavioural observation week, we will sacrifice all mice by flooding the testing room with an overdose concentration of isoflurane. After sacrifice, several researchers enter the room (wearing gas-appropriate PPE) and collect a handful of mice to immediately bring to our surgical suite. Surgical procedures include researchers dissecting out three (3) perfect cubes from each brain. The first cube completely contains the parahippocampal zone, a brain region thought to be involved in homelessness. Supporting this neural function, we have recently reported that the parahippocampal zone is anatomically reduced and functionally silenced in some homeless patients as measured using fMRI approaches (Atome et al., 2022). The remaining two (2) cubes will sample the amygdala and medulla. These are both lower, conserved mammalian brain regions that could reveal neural functions in housing as ancestral vertebrate traits. Cubes are flash frozen on dry ice to preserve RNA prior to storage. Once all brains are frozen and stored at -80 degrees, they are individually dissociated into isolated cells for single-cell RNA sequencing (specific methods available in most papers). Sequencing and expression data are subsequently subjected to classical transcriptomic statistical approaches to produce PCA clustering, volcano plots, and that red to green change-in-transcription kind of grid.

Preliminary Results: We have only run single-cell RNA sequencing and subsequent transcriptomics on a small subset of homeless and homed mouse parahippocampal zones. However, in this small set we see big trends. Following PCA analysis, we found a near significant clustering of cells within the parahippocampal zone unique to homeless mice, suggesting there is a marked difference in the expression of several genes likely to be implicated in homelessness. Elaborating on this result, volcano plots revealed that the most significant (trending) changes in gene expression were found in, unbelievably, housekeeping genes, primarily broom3, windexB2, and swiffer-beta (Fig. 1).  Whereas the history of this gene group points to an ignorable ubiquity (as did misunderstood “junk DNA” beforehand), here we found them as the unique genes underexpressed in homeless mice. This was further confirmed with the red-to-green grid graph, which found these genes are often more red than green in homeless mice. Altogether, we reveal a powerful prescience supporting housekeeping genes as not only no longer ignorable but also well-named. However, despite the expense in this approach, further experimentation is needed to establish statistical significance and a causative role of these genes in homelessness.

Fig. 1

Experiment 3: mutation of key “housekeeping” genes

Rationale: Our first two proposed experiments proffer us with the ability to isolate homeless mice (1) and uncover consistent perturbations in gene expression they exhibit within the parahippocampal zone (2). However, even amongst these great advances, science requires the generation of causal relationships, not simply the correlational ones we have observed so far. Accordingly, we finally propose to target mutations to key genes implicated in mouse homelessness in mouse embryos, tracking their housing tendencies beyond development. We hypothesize that by impairing housekeeping gene function, we can induce homelessness in even the most homey mouse.

Methods: To generate mutant mice, we propose to use the latest techniques in targeted mutagenesis centred on the highly popular and accurate cas9 exonuclease (SigmaAldritch-IDT-CRISPoh, technique in preparation). CRISPoh guides will be generated in triplets to induce nonsense/stop mutations in the three housekeeping genes exhibiting the largest decrease in expression in homeless mice identified above: broom3, windexB2, and swiffer-beta, heretofore referred to as the BWS trilogy. Mutations will be induced in one-to-two-cell embryos and confirmed later in development by genetic sequencing of tail samples. We hypothesize that triple mutant mice will overwhelmingly exhibit homeless tendencies as adults.

Preliminary Results: As the final experiment proposed, we have had the least opportunity to produce preliminary mutant results. However, we have generated twenty (20) successful triple mutants that are currently developing to adulthood, when behavioural testing will commence. Our only current finding is that twelves (12) of these triple mutants have already died within the first week of development. Although this may sound problematic to our proposal, we again will highlight that fatality is a trait common to human homelessness. Furthermore, research has consistently demonstrated that all dangers are more likely to lead to fatality in younger, weaker, developing vertebrates compared to mature ones (Matell et al., 2007). Accordingly, we believe this level of fatality (which was not found in controls, singles, or double mutants) validates our proposed approach for more thorough testing. Knowing if these genes play a critical role in homelessness will open the path to gene therapies. Gene therapies enable us to combat homelessness from a perspective too quickly swept under the rug and usher a world into the human body that has been kept outside for far too long.

Conclusion

My proposal is simple. In a world where genetics has reshaped and directed such success over the understanding and treatment of diseases, I reveal that homelessness is a disease ignored for far too long. I propose a means to study the behaviour and genetics of homelessness using a popular lab model, including the establishment of causal mechanisms producing an aversion to the home. While environmental approaches to house provisioning have failed on all fronts (BlacRoc, 2021), I suggest a biological approach holds far more promise. Home is where the parahippocampal zone is.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Statement

EDI is central to all of my work. My lab includes all types of people: undergraduates, Masters candidates, PhD candidates, postdocs, technicians, research assistants, and one secretary. I appreciate all lab members and remember to tell them how proud I am of them as often as possible. However, EDI, similar to homelessness as pointed out above, has also been applied to only humans for far too long. Here, I wish to highlight the wholly new ways I apply EDI philosophy to the other biological materials in the lab.

It all began as I watched the caps of the microcentrifuge tubes bob, firmly fit in the foam floaty cutout that resembled a frog silhouette, ever so agitating in the mysterious currents coming and going within a water bath. From the outside, sure, not the most photogenic, but the visual abstract building in my head reminded me that what counts was inside the familiar cell membrane figure I downloaded off of BioRender. Within each tube was a small cube of the parahippocampal zone excised from the brain of either a homed or homeless lab mouse, holding my secrets. The dilute trypsin in the surrounding liquid of each tube was playing the paleontologist, excavating those great unknowns by loosening layer after layer of cells to float freely from the outermost tissue surface.

I would lean in closer. I was liberating these cells, giving them freedom to be themselves. Unjudged. Equal. Diverse. Included in all analysis. No longer were they twisted and tied amongst other neurons or, god forbid, the nearby glia and vasculature. They had been overcommitted to their surroundings and undercommitted to themselves. No, this cabalistic tissue would be dissolved by weak detergents and reasonable incubation temperatures. I imagined every neuron set free in 15-20 minutes, molded by water tension into small, perfect spheres. The liberatory action of detergent did not stop here: we would help each nucleus to even sever its protuberances, axons, dendrites, cutting off these interferences to leave just the essence of life in a million crystal balls. The soma is the brain of the cell, so to speak, these neurites only simple arms, holding nothing new.

With these thoughtful processes, I embrace EDI for both my trainees and our cells to be themselves. Independence, faith, and support have led both to teach me new things: my trainees when I come in each morning to learn of their late night discoveries, and my cells when the transcriptomic graphs come back in. EDI can reach far beyond the boundaries we have given it, if only we are brave enough to let it. 

Conflict of Interest Statements

While I personally believe wishing to see your research through to its most helpful application is simply responsible, I must legally disclose that I am the founder and sitting CEO of The Home Up Top, a private biotechnology start-up corporation seeking to develop genetic therapies to combat homelessness following this research.

Grant Review Outcome and Recommendations

The study session has met and discussed the proposal, wherein the investigator applied cutting-edge gene-editing technology to study a common disorder of homelessness, the etiology of which remains unknown. All reviewers generally agree with the overall hypothesis and are optimistic about the expected outcome and trust the expertise of Dr. Shabi’s team to complete the study. Furthermore, a few reviewers noted the study’s potential to present a paradigm shift, which sets the foundation for a revolutionary approach to understanding the pressing and unresolved issues of our time, such as hunger, crime, and illiteracy. There are, however, a few minor comments for consideration; however, these do not dampen our enthusiasm and the study session’s recommendation that the study should be funded.

*Author Responses are in the colour blue, but also labeled as “Author Response” for those unable to perceive blue (I apologize for your loss).

Reviewer 1: Homeless humans are typically anonymous. I wonder whether identifying the mice using body marker would change the outcome. A separate control should be added.

Author Response: This ethological aspect of homelessness has rightly been highlighted as a detail alluding our experimental design. However, in lieu of provisioning another control group, we propose to proceed by removing the name-based body marker on each mouse and, instead, add small outfit repositories (structurally reminiscent of dumpsters) filled with tattered clothing, bandanas, and dirty pants outside of the mouse houses (cages). A complementary closet full of new, untattered clothing and jewelry will be introduced inside each cage. This way, we aim to have all mice assign themselves visualized identities, which we suspect will lead our animal models closer to their human homologs while enabling long-term experimental tracking on an individual basis. 

Reviewer 2: The red-to-green-change-in-transcription-kind-of-grid has been challenged by the color-blind, or color-differently-perceived researchers. The field has started to shift toward using yellow-to-blue-absolute-transcription-level-histograms.

Author Response: Firstly, we would like to apologize to the visually difficultied for our ignorance. To repent for our short sight (apologies for that too), we will adopt the yellow-to-blue-absolute-transcription-level-histograms as the field has recently tended. Our red-to-green-change-in-transcription-kind-of-grid will be adapted by transforming all numbers into star ratings (from 10 stars down to “rotten”)  and relegated to supplementary material on future publications.

Reviewer 3: How do you score the anti-homing behavior? An automatic and quantitative methodology should be used to ensure total and complete objectivity of the outcome.

Author Response: This is a thoughtful question. Time in a cage is the primary differentiator between the housed and the homeless mice. We noticed after weeks of hands-on and video observation that homeless mice tend to spend much less time in a cage home. In future work, our interest seeks to subdivide this larger label of homelessness, including by tracking acts in which homeless mice enter cages to steal food, clothing, water, or jewelry (see response to Reviewer 1 above). This theft score will contribute as a sort of severity of homelessness and, we hope, be tied to other genes in the near future.

Reviewer 4: Will you do proteomics to confirm transcription profiles? This would be important as swiffer-beta is typically dominated by swiffer-alpha.

Author Response: …we’ll think about it.

Reviewer 5: Congratulations on achieving such heights as still an Assistant Professor. The founding of a company is no small task and demonstrates your willingness to see this work change the world.

Author Response: Thank you, Robert, this means a lot.

To fight genocide and ecocide, we must abolish the RCMP

This post is a from the Autumn 2023 Rage Climatique journal; read the full journal here. Members of Science for the People Canada are supporting the Week of Climate Rage taking place September 25-29 in Tiohtià:ke (Montréal). Join us at the anticapitalist climate protest, September 29th at 2pm, Place George-Etienne-Cartier.
Support the Abolish C-IRG campaign: https://abolishcirg.org/

The Community-Industry Relations Group (C-IRG) is a secretive, armed detachment of Canada’s federal police force, specifically established to police Indigenous-led resistance to resource extraction projects. In calls to abolish the C-IRG, we see more clearly than ever how police abolition, ecological restoration, and Land Back are one and the same struggle. To work towards police abolition is to deliver a blow against colonialism, extractivism, the climate crisis, and capitalism itself.

The myth of the “public” sector

Like almost everyone who attended public school in Canada, I was misled to believe that the government played a mostly neutral or even sometimes positive role in conflicts between resource extraction companies and the communities they harmed. Our textbooks were filled with examples of US and Canadian legislators passing regulations and bylaws that seemed to protect everyday people from the pollution of profit-seeking private companies.

The myth that there is any kind of meaningful, antagonistic relationship between Canada’s public sector and Canada’s private sector is a powerful propaganda tool for the capitalist class. The reality is that our settler-capitalist government and its colonial legal system were created in tandem with the establishment of extractive industries, expressly to support capitalist accumulation through violent force. Capitalists established a bourgeois government and colonial police force to remove Indigenous inhabitants, to crush the armed resistance of the people, and to fend off competing American capitalists who would otherwise begin to encroach upon “their” resources. Contrary to what we were all taught in school, in the vast majority of cases, the state holds a gun to the heads of the people so that the capitalist class may rob, drill, pollute, and clear-cut with impunity. “Canada” to this day remains “three mining companies in a trench coat,” no matter how many millions of dollars are spent on “CanCon” media productions that try to fabricate a vacuous nationalist mythology based on hockey, timbits, liberal multiculturalism, and “reconciliation.”

The RCMP: 150 years of colonial violence

The North West Mounted Police (NWMP) was the direct predecessor of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), established in 1873 on the heels of the Métis Red River Resistance. It was created for the express purpose of clearing Indigenous communities from Western Canada and crushing any remaining pockets of rebellion, so that the new settler-colonial state could be joined from coast to coast. In one of the first of many social and ecological crises precipitated by the Canadian state, the NWMP were also in part responsible for the near-extinction of the buffalo on the Western plains. The NWMP immediately embarked on the project of pushing Indigenous people further and further West to allow for encroaching European settlements to establish enclosed cattle ranching, right atop the traditional grazing land of the buffalo. Meanwhile, U.S. settlers engaged in a systematic campaign of buffalo slaughter to clear the way for ranching and white settlements to the South– this was done to try to induce starvation and disease in Indigenous populations, to force dependency on colonial food rations, and to corral Indigenous people onto reservations under the constant threat of starvation. Once the buffalo were all but a distant memory, the police engaged in routinized humiliation and sexual violence by withholding food rations to reserves in order to “secure their access to teenaged Indigenous women,” among other atrocities.

Over the years, the RCMP along with provincial police forces have consistently overseen the rights of the capitalist class to systematically bull doze, clear-cut, and drill on Indigenous land. But they have been met at every turn by heroic anti-colonial resistance and struggle. During the armed conflict at Oka in 1990 over the expansion of a golf course and the development of condos on Kahnienkehaka land, the Quebec police department sent in officers with M-16s, tanks, helicopters, jets, artillery units, and even naval forces to repress resistance at both Kanehsatà:ke and Kahnawake. The armed standoff lasted 78 days and ultimately saw the successful blocking of the golf course expansion. 5 years later, the RCMP carried out a 31-day siege of Secwepemc territory and arrested Ts’peten land defenders during the Gustafsen Lake Standoff in BC. In 2013, the RCMP arrested over 40 Elsipogtog First Nation members opposing shale gas and fracking projects on their territory. These are but a few of hundreds of examples in the history of so-called Canada that highlight the centrality of state police forces in settler-capitalists’ centuries-long crusade to exploit the “rich natural resources” on which the wealth of “Canada” is built.

The Community-Industry Response Group 

Today, as the climate crisis worsens and Indigenous-led resistance grows, the reactionary state repression of land defenders has become increasingly efficient and consolidated. Perhaps the clearest demonstration of the identity of interests of state and industry is the creation of the C-IRG (Community-Industry Response Group). The C-IRG is a secretive paramilitary detachment within the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), specifically established in 2017 to streamline the violent repression of Indigenous-led resistance against resource extraction projects in BC. So far, at least $50 million has been spent over the last 6 years to surveil and beat back land defenders at Fairy Creek, the Wet’suwet’en-led resistance to the CGL pipeline, several First Nations’ protests against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, the Coast Salish Nation’s resistance to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, and resistance at the Site C hydroelectric dam.

What is known about the C-IRG in BC has been revealed through access to information requests by investigative reporters, and from research led by land defenders like Molly Murphy in collaboration with Research for the Frontlines. The C-IRG has been described as free “mercenaries” for the oil and gas industry, hired and paid for through public tax dollars. This special detachment consists of “volunteer” RCMP officers who specifically put their names forward to work alongside private industry to police Indigenous-led resistance to pipeline construction and logging. Some are paid $100 per hour, working 18.5 hour shifts at a time. They routinely remove their name badges to avoid accountability for misconduct, and have become infamous for sporting fascist “thin blue line” badges in their place. The group is funded through a 70:30 split between the provincial and federal governments. In other words, the C-IRG is a racist, self-selected, highly remunerated, state-funded paramilitary group that provides free intelligence and “quick-response” armed security for the owners of oil, gas, logging and mining companies.

Among their favourite tactics is stimming– a psychological warfare technique where cops play unnerving noises and keep bright lights on at all hours of the evening in the campsites, walking through the camps non-stop to prevent land defenders from getting rest. This is meant to break land defenders’ morale and create tensions within the camp. Floodlights, loud speakers, cameras, and other sensors are trained on the sleeping quarters of prominent activists. During confrontations, the C-IRG is also authorized to use “pain compliance” techniques, including face holds that involve gouging land defenders’ eyes with the index and middle finger.

“Private-public partnerships” are the colonial way

The RCMP also collaborates intimately with private firms to spy on activists. At Fairy Creek, they helped the Teal Jones logging company’s private security agents infiltrate activist camps, who then conducted covert ops and shared surveillance intelligence with the C-IRG. If ever there were any doubts about the extent of collusion and coordination between the RCMP and private industry, some at Fairy Creek reported company loggers physically pinning down land defenders then calling over C-IRG officers to finish the job. In other words, loggers openly assaulted individuals with impunity, right in front of police officers, in order to facilitate their formal arrest.

As these investigations point out, injunction law is the resource extraction industry’s greatest weapon, allowing judges to consider each case in isolation without regard to the validity of Aboriginal Title. All the company needs to do is make the case that they will suffer “irreparable harm” if their project is not allowed to advance. The majority of the C-IRG’s operations consist of the armed enforcement of these illegitimate civil injunctions.

The C-IRG is currently under CRCC review after the RCMP received over 500 complaints in areas where the detachment was active. But no matter how much the Canadian state attempts to reform, rename, or rebrand these forces under different names or through “cultural sensitivity training,” we must never be fooled. Our capitalist government will never support Land Back in any material sense– it will never allow for the collective stewardship of our forests, mountains, and waterways so long as there is more profit to be squeezed from the mines, fracking projects, and monocultures of lumber.

For those still holding out hope that electing a “progressive” party might help stall or reverse the climate apocalypse, it’s worth remembering that almost all of the violent crackdowns on Indigenous groups by the C-IRG in BC were funded and supported by the so-called “progressive” provincial New Democratic Party (NDP), who have held a majority government in the province since 2017. In 2022, they pledged $230 million in additional funding to the RCMP to grow rural police detachments, recognizing the increased importance of protecting the capitalist class’s massive mining, logging, and natural gas projects in the face of growing Indigenous-led resistance.

“Democratic” elections at both the provincial and federal levels in Canada have time and time again proven to be highly effective propaganda campaigns– they are exercises in democracy for the capitalist class only, who get to select every four years the particular flavour of welfare-state capitalism or free-market capitalism they’d like to enjoy. In a faux-democratic system designed and controlled by settler-capitalists to serve the interests of resource extraction and labour exploitation, there has never been an electoral party that truly and materially delivers on Land Back. Capitalists rest easy knowing that state-funded mercenaries like the C-IRG will always be there to back up their pipelines and logging projects, no matter the colour of the posters that hang in the office of the incumbent.

Abolition and environmental stewardship are the same struggle

Police abolition– and especially the abolition of the RCMP– is central to the fight against ecocide and climate change. If completed, the 670-km Coastal Gas Link pipeline will transport 2.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas to export terminals on the coast, to be processed, exported, and burned. Canadian liquified natural gas exports are set to soar thanks to new market penetration opportunities brought about by the war in Ukraine, with new export terminals being considered on the West Coast, East Coast, and even in Québec.

And now, seizing the opportunity to greenwash the production of semiconductors and batteries, the Canadian state has arbitrarily labeled a whole host of new metals and minerals as “critical” and “essential,” in much the same way that “oil and gas” was labeled critical infrastructure in the mid-2010s. This designation, in conjunction with Stephen Harper’s Bill C-51, means that resistance to fossil fuel extraction can now be considered domestic terrorism– with Indigenous land defenders and their supporters labeled members of “fringe terrorist groups” by intelligence agencies. As Canada expands its domestic mining operations to deliver on “critical mineral” for “green” batteries and semiconductors, their promotion of these mines to “critical infrastructure” could allow the state to come down on protestors with the full force of its intelligence, surveillance, and paramilitary apparatus.

There is an inextricable and increasingly obvious link between police abolition and ecocide. Accelerating extreme weather events and climate-related catastrophes make the former an ever more urgent necessity, because climate disasters and social upheaval only strengthen the fascist tendencies of the liberal capitalist state, as demonstrated by the creation of the C-IRG. To dream of reversing or even just curbing our precipitous ecological decline, and slowing the exponential proliferation of extreme weather events, we must make rapid and sustained progress towards abolishing the armed forces that have enabled capitalists to exploit the land for far too long.

MORE READING ON C-IRG:

Support the Abolish C-IRG campaign: https://abolishcirg.org/

1. APTN (“Behind the thin blue line” – Brett Forester): https://www.aptnnews.ca/ourstories/cirg/

2. Briarpatch (“The C-IRG: the resource extraction industry’s best ally” – Molly Murphy): https://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/the-c-irg-the-resource-extraction-industrys-best-ally

3. Briarpatch (“Real climate action means defunding the police” – Molly Murphy): https://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/climate-action-defunding-police-CIRG-RCMP-Fairy-Creek

4. RCMP 150: https://rcmpheritage.ca/

Memo to SftP NYC

I want to alert you to a “science happening” in the Upper West Side of Manhattan that I think deserves our attention.  Unfortunately, it is no longer a happening we can do much about; it is a fait accompli.  I am referring to the recent opening of the Gilder Science Center as a new wing of the American Museum of Natural History.  The Museum announced the opening with understated triumphalism.

A New York Times encomium to the Gilder Center written by Michael Kimmelman was less restrained.

Warning: Kimmelman’s article and its photographs may instill in you an urgent desire to visit the Gilder Center.  It is indeed impressive.  But as the saying goes, “All that glitters is not gold.”  There is more to it than meets the eye, in ways that will probably not surprise any SftP members.

Kimmelman tips his hat to the “imperialistic and voracious” history of the Museum, and mentions, in passing, “years of sometimes acrimonious community engagement.”  That was an acknowledgement of the strong local pushback against the Gilder Center project in the neighborhoods surrounding the Museum.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the New York chapter of SftP wasn’t meeting at the height of the anti-Gilder protests.  It is too late to challenge it now, but at least we might want to provide historical perspective in order to help the public understand why it wasn’t such a great idea.

The moving spirits driving the project were not scientists or science educators, but billionaire investors.  It was a science-themed high-finance operation that grew into an unstoppable juggernaut crushing all critics, questioners, and protesters in its path.  Unsurprisingly, it enjoyed the unwavering bipartisan support of the political establishment at all levels.  The politicians milked the public’s fascination with the “gee whiz” aspects of science to sell the big-money construction scheme.

No one was protesting the creation of a beneficial new science education facility.  But while acknowledging that the shiny new science center could indeed serve to advance science education, they asked why it could not be constructed in one of New York City’s many underserved communities that suffer from a paucity of educational resources?  The Upper West Side of Manhattan, with the American Museum of Natural History as it was, already enjoyed an embarrassment of riches with regard to science education facilities.

Cary Goodman was a prominent opponent of the project for several years. Here are excerpts from a letter Dr. Goodman wrote to the New York Times in response to Michael Kimmelman’s previously mentioned puff piece praising the Gilder Center:

The new wing is neither “poetic” nor “theatrical.” The new wing is an extension of the museum’s colonial heritage and world view.  The new wing has been constructed at the cost of ancient trees, an enormous increase in air pollution, and with disregard for wildlife and residents.

Shamefully, the City Council increased its financing for the expansion by more than 600% in five years to $92,000,000.  Amazingly, no elected official opposed the private museum’s encroachment on public parkland.

Five thousand neighbors and park goers, including prominent West Siders like Bill Moyers, Holland Taylor, Philip Roth, and Billie Jean King, petitioned against the expansion.  At public hearings, the museum turned off opponents’ microphones, ignored requests for information, and crippled democracy.

Mr. Kimmelman excuses his bias in favor of the museum by writing that he might be “coming from a blinkered space.”  Might this explain why the Times, alone among all New York media, never met with, listened to, or wrote about the other side of this “joyful” story?

We might want to solicit a more in-depth analysis of the issue from Dr. Goodman.  I have heard him speak eloquently and at length about it, so I know he has a lot more to say about it.

–Cliff Conner

Free Cuba to Free Ourselves

Report from SftP Delegation to Cuba

We left Havana on May 3. Tired after days of seminars, meetings with locals, and cultural activities, I was able to begin unpacking and relax, unlike many others returning home to the United States who ended up being detained at the airports of Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and Newark. They were granted special permission to visit Cuba under the US blockade that has been in place for more than sixty years (except for a short reprieve from 2014–2017). Yet, despite legal documents and US citizenship, the border agents harassed, threatened, and abused them like criminals. Freedom of movement does not apply to people in the land of the free.

With the recent addition of Cuba to the “State Sponsors of Terrorism” list under the Biden administration, the economic barrier erected by the most comprehensive blockade in history serves more than to asphyxiate Cuba into submission; its primary goal is to prevent the world from seeing and believing in an alternative to capitalism. Fredric Jameson once said that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. He must have not visited Cuba.

Don’t get me wrong. Cuba is not a utopia. It is visibly struggling; infrastructure is crumbling; economic inequality exists; Cuban people are far from happy or content and some aspire to find new lives abroad. Nevertheless, what we learned in our ten-day trip in Cuba is that the left in the Global North cannot address the various issues facing us today without learning from the Cuban experience. To do this, and to concurrently strengthen anticapitalist struggles across the world, we must first and foremost break the US blockade on Cuba.

Phenomena do not exist in isolation. The US blockade must be recognized as a manifestation of the same colonial project that existed long before the Cuban revolution of 1959 and the Cuban independence movement of 1902, as this year marks the 200th anniversary of the Monroe Doctrine. One misconception about Cuba is the association with a singular figure of Fidel Castro. While many ordinary Cubans profess their love for their Comandante el Jefe, Fidel’s name or image is hardly seen in Havana—it was Castro’s own wish that public commemoration be discouraged. If there were to be a personification of the Cuban psyche, it is poet and anticolonial fighter Jose Martí. More than anything, Cubans pride themselves with the progress they made in anticolonial, anti-imperialist struggles since Martí. Seeing from the outside, the Cuban people today objectively retain degrees of sovereignty above neighboring states like Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico (which remains a US colony). In real terms, while Hurricane Maria left nearly three thousands people dead in Puerto Rico and devastated the island for years, Cuba suffered few casualties and quickly rebuilt—a fact undeniable even by the Washington Post. Thus, the question of whether Cuba is a socialist country matters less than whether Cuba is able to overcome centuries of colonialism. At the same time, the former is directly related to the latter: its socialist principles are in lockstep with its national liberation project.

If you are an astute observer, you may pick out these principles traveling through Cuba. We did not need government officials, union representatives, or prominent intellectuals to tell us what they are. The lack of advertisement even at the busiest tourist corner of Havana reflects the social constraints exerted on market forces. The complete lack of police presence, even at 2 a.m. in an area with vibrant nightlife, the absence of homelessness, loitering youth, panhandling, and general wretchedness speak loud and clear about human welfare and security. Even when the buildings and sidewalks are in disrepair, music, art, and people in the community filled the public spaces. And of course, the hospitals—the successes of the Cuban healthcare system in taking care of its own people need no further elaboration. Lesser known is Cuba’s leading role in global health. We visited Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina (ELAM) and met students from Congo, Chile, Palestine, and the United States (who came from underserved communities) on full scholarships; these students are trained with the socialist philosophy that sees health not as a mere biological problem but also a social issue, which prepares them to be able to serve their own community upon completion of training by gaining an understanding of their own geographical, political, and cultural contexts. This act of internationalism is but a small part of the renowned Cuban medical brigade that provides humanitarian aid to all corners of the world—to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Africa during the Ebola outbreak, Syria after the recent earthquake, to name only a few.

Claudia, a young woman we met during the visit to Centro de Inmunología Molecular (CIM), was among the medical volunteers at the peak of COVID-19 infection. She was not a physician but a scientist working on the now-approved SOBERANA vaccine. As the US blockade deprived Cuba access to the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, they had to develop their own. After devoting hundreds of hours in the labs producing the basic research before vaccines can be mass manufactured, she spent months in Venezuela educating local communities on public health measures and helped distribute the million doses of SOBERANA donated from Cuba. We were deeply moved by such an embodiment of science in the service of humanity. It’s important to acknowledge that not every Cuban medical or science student is like Claudia—she told me as much; many trainees have left the country in pursuit of higher pays as physicians and scientists, and many are quitting their education to earn hard currency from the nascent tourist industry. The realization that we are the tourists still haunts the memory of this encounter. Meanwhile, Cuba’s pharmaceutical development is not entirely humanitarian, as SOBERANA under international patent rights allow for its sales and distributions in higher income countries to boost Cuba’s export. The market still dictates many facets of Cuban life.

I am reminded of Huey Newton’s famous phrase: revolution is a process. If we simply take Cuba’s achievements in medical internationalism, scientific achievement, as well as the new 2022 Family Code that granted unprecedented rights to women, elderly, and LGBTQ+ communities—a demonstration of popular democracy through which millions of votes were casted and thousands of debates, consultations, and public events were held—as discrete victories of progress, we may find exemplary counterparts in Western Europe. But seeing the Cuban society as an agent in world history, we can draw a few unique lessons for our own struggle to overcome capitalism.

First, we must study and understand how Cuba survived adversity, not just building a national and cultural identity on a resource-deprived island ninety miles off the coast of a settler-colonial empire, but actively resisting continued imperial aggression after centuries of slavery and extraction from the United States. In prioritizing human development as official policy, Cuba stands out among countries in the world for its education, medicine, science, sport, and arts. We may disagree on the verity of its socialism, but none can deny the contribution to humanity that the Cuban people have made since 1959 in healing and defending the world against colonists in Algeria, Angola, and Vietnam, etc.

Second, in studying the contradictions, problems, and challenges of Cuban society, the effect of the US blockade cannot be underplayed. Any commodities that comprise 10 percent or more manufacturing in the United States are restricted to enter Cuba; third party countries or private firms that attempt to establish trade with Cuba will need to constantly tiptoe around sanctions and fines from unilateral US law, the content of which changes regularly to discourage capital influx to Cuba. As a result of economic suffocation, Cuba’s energy and food supply are in tight balance, always in conflict with social expenditure. We experienced several blackouts during our stay, and by the end of the trip became accustomed to sudden changes of itinerary due to logistical issues. While it is all the more impressive of what Cuba was able to achieve under the blockade, it should lead us to contemplate what more would Cuba have provided to the world if it is freed from the US stranglehold?

Third, capitalism and imperialism are coevolutionary processes. We cannot win class struggle in the advanced capitalist countries at home without solidarity from the Global South—the majority of the world. This is where Cuba stands tall as a beacon of anti-imperialism since the beginning of the revolution, with its illustrious legacies of vanguarding the formations of Organización de Solidaridad de los Pueblos de Asia, África y América Latina (OSPAAAL) and the Non-aligned Movement. As the blockade not only hinders social/socialist development of Cuba and the rest of the Third World, it is a detriment to our struggles in the metropoles. On a superficial level, we ask how many lives would be saved if the Cuban Heberprot-P treatment for diabetic foot ulcer or CIMAvax-EGF for lung cancer are allowed for the hundred million poor people in the United States? At a deeper level, if the US rulers can continue to disregard the will of the world’s people and commit to carry out this crime against humanity, what would they do to nascent revolutionary struggles in other parts of the world (e.g., Venezuela, Palestine), or under its own belly (e.g., Black and Indigenous liberation)? The Cuban sovereign project, socialist or not, is at the forefront of a totality of world struggle against capitalism and empire.

At the end of this write-up, our comrades detained at the US border are now released. They told us that their phones were immediately seized, broken into, while being denied legal consultation. We went on a trip to learn about Cuban society. Perhaps we learned just as much if not more about our own society. In order to free ourselves from repression in our own country, we must stand in solidarity with the Cuban people suffering from the same repression manifested abroad. The blockade against Cuba is a blockade against our own future, a shared vision by the people of the world fighting for peace, justice, and all that is good of humanity.

Presentation at CIM

In the coming months, SftP will produce more content related to our trip to Cuba as we launch campaigns to #EndtheBlockade.

Twin Cities – Shut down Line 3

Announcement 

SftP – Twin Cities

Come join us at the headwaters of Misi-ziibi at 10am on Tue 7/20 for ceremony and 11am for a press conference about the severe drought.

Come listen to speakers while witnessing the drought, the resistance, and the river that connects so many of us.

This Nibi/water is removed from the water table by Enbridge and placed in upland areas with little known evidence as to how or if the water will return to its/her original source. This impacts water for drinking, fishing, canoeing, and growing Manoomin (wild rice).

Rights of Manoomin was passed in 2018 by the White Earth Nation and 1855 Treaty Authority to protect this relative. The destruction from dewatering has the potential to be devastating for all of us who share this connection with Misi-ziibi.

This event is Co-hosted by Rights of Mississippi River, RISE Coalition, MN350, Science for the People-Twin Cities, Vote Climate, and Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate

WHAT: 10 States Sharing One Misi-ziibi: Dewatering, Deforestation, and Destruction at Headwaters

WHEN: Tuesday, July 20 at 11:00 a.m

WHERE: Headwaters inside Itasca State Park, Mary Gibbs Visitor Center location

WHO: Rights of Mississippi River, RISE Coalition, Science for the People – Twin Cities, Vote Climate, MN350, Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate

SftP Statement of Support for Dr. Valentina Azarova and CAUT  

Science for the People express our support for Dr. Valentina Azarova and for the Canadian Association of University Teachers’ (CAUT) censure of the University of Toronto. 

As detailed by CAUT in this report explaining the decision to censure, “Dr. Azarova specializes in legal and human rights issues arising from immigration detention, the arms trade, and

occupation and annexation. As part of this latter work, she has written several articles and book chapters on the application of international law and treaty obligations within the context of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories.“ 

The university rescinded its offer to hire Dr. Azarova as the next Director of the International Human Rights Program, despite the fact that, as concluded in the Cromwell Report, she was the “strong, unanimous, and enthusiastic first choice of the selection committee.” The report, in its attempt to exonerate the administration, all but confirmed that there was external influence on the ultimate decision made by the Dean of Law; it is now evident that an alumnus of and major donor to the law school interfered with the decision to hire Dr. Azarova, privately expressing concerns over Dr. Azarova’s past work on Israel’s abuses in occupied Palestine. Full details of the chronology of events leading to this decision can be found here and here.

Science for the People is deeply concerned by this blatant violation of academic freedom, and call on the University of Toronto and its Faculty of Law to immediately reinstate Dr. Azarova’s offer. We also affirm that this incident is part of a broader campaign to silence, harass, and intimidate academics, overwhelmingly Arab and Muslim, who advocate for the Palestinian cause. As Palestine Legal, amongst others, have documented in detail, there is a widespread effort to chill and censor advocacy for the Palestinian people on university campuses in the US. Dr. Azarova’s case is an example of similar efforts occurring in Canada. In the US, in 2020 alone, Palestine Legal “responded to 213 incidents of suppression of U.S.-based Palestine advocacy”. This campaign cannot be separated from the colonial structures to which Palestinian scholars are themselves subjected, and that deny Palestinians their right to academic freedom and mobility. 

These attacks do not fall on deaf ears. Scholars and activists continue to organize against censorship and retribution. Initiatives include Against Canary Mission, Palestine Legal, and Center for Constitutional Rights.

Science for the People urges all academics to engage with such organising efforts and to pledge to respect the CAUT censure of the University of Toronto until the conditions specified by CAUT are met and specifically until an offer to direct the IHRP is made to Dr. Azarova. If the University of Toronto is interested in upholding the principle of academic freedom, extending such an offer to Dr. Azarova is a necessary first step.

Resource Radicals Reading Group

Between January and April 2021, Science for the People co-organized a reading group along with DSA Ecosocialists and The Dig podcast of Thea Riofranco’s “Resource Radicals: From Petro-Nationalism to Post-Extractivism in Ecuador,” a thoughtful and generous analysis of the history and politics of ongoing dynamic debates within the diverse Ecuadorian lefts. If you would like to organize future reading groups with Science for the People, please contact us at sftp.revitalization[at]gmail.

Below we have done our best to summarize some of the take-aways of the reading group experience in three sections:
1. Guiding/Discussion questions
2. Reading group reflections
3. Supplemental reading and materials

 

GUIDING/DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Marcha Plurinacional por el Agua y la Vida

Session 1: Introduction + Chapter 1 (From Neoliberalismo to Extractivismo)

  • How did anti-extractivism emerge as a political demand to organize around under a Left government in power?
  • What are the central tensions between the left in power and the left on the streets? Do these tensions still play out in current day Americas (both North and South)? If yes, how so?
  • What is the “extractive model” and what are its trappings for an ascendent Leftist movement? What have been its concrete achievements? What were the alternative means proposed for similar objectives by the anti-extractivist left?
  • Was resource nationalism a definitive break from neoliberalism? Discuss your arguments (for/against) within the context of global capital.

Session 2: Chapter 2 (Extractivismo as Grand Narrative of Resistance)

  • How does extractivismo as an organizing principle differ from the mainstream environmental movement in the Global North? Are there any similar principles in the Global North? If not, how can organizers/activists raise such a consciousness?
  • Discuss the technocratic framing of a neoliberal state as “weak” and “inefficient” as compared to a socialist “regulatory” state – how does this framing compare with the conception of an anti-capitalist state? How does this framing compare with actually existing socialist states such as Cuba and the USSR?
  • What functions did bureaucrats like Maria Belen serve in the Correa administration? How did their roles influence the tensions between the anti-extractivist activists and the Correa govt?
  • How does the dichotomy of anti-extractivism vs resource nationalism play out in terms of anti-imperialist politics?

Session 3: Chapter 3 (Consulta Previa)

  • Where did Ecuador’s 2008 Constitution originate from and how did it shape the coming battles between anti-extractive activists and the government
  • What lessons can be learned from Ecuadorean activists practicing constituent politics and how can they be applied to local environmental fights in the Global North, especially the US and/or Canada?
  • In Abel Arpi’s formulation of state ownership of non-renewable resources and anti-extractivism, is there room for developmentalism? Discuss Arpi’s proposal as a path towards wielding state power for socialist goals.
  • Are there parallels to the use of 1040 Decree by government bureaucrats, such as in the Mirador project, to the use of information by US governments when justifying extractive operations?

Session 4: Chapter 4 (The Demos in Dispute)

  • How did the question around the Quimsacocha gold mine bring up the question of who “the people” are? How did the idea of “the people” differ in the communities compared to that held by state functionaries?
  • What role did plurinationality, as incorporated in the 2008 constitution, play in shaping the exercise of constituent power by UNAGUA members?
  • What risks underlie the use of democratic exercises as resistance? 
  • In a socialist state, can a national interest ever be fully aligned with local interests?

Session 5: Chapter 5 (Governing the Future)

  • Does the dichotomy of Left-in-Power vs the Left-in-Resistance serve a useful lens to view future socialist politics? Discuss why or why not. 
  • How can questions of national sovereignty be resolved in a plurinational state? 
  • Within radical resource nationalism, is there room for internationalist solidarity? 
  • Given the short window of time to enact meaningful changes to combat the climate crisis, which is planetary in nature, how can the Left-in-Power vs the Left-in-Resistance dialectic be resolved?

Session 6: Chapter 6 (Conclusion)

  • Does the dichotomy of Left-in-Power vs the Left-in-Resistance serve a useful lens to view future socialist politics? Discuss why or why not. 
  • How can questions of national sovereignty be resolved in a plurinational state? 
  • Within radical resource nationalism, is there room for internationalist solidarity? 
  • Given the short window of time to enact meaningful changes to combat the climate crisis, which is planetary in nature, how can the Left-in-Power vs the Left-in-Resistance dialectic be resolved?

READING GROUP REFLECTIONS 

  • Quote – Coming Soon
  • Quote – Coming Soon
  • Quote – Coming Soon

SUPPLEMENTAL READING + MATERIALS

Second SftP statement on COVID-19 pandemic

The United States has entered a severe and dangerous phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.   Cases and deaths are surging, and many areas are facing critical shortages in hospital facilities and staff.  The gap in the hardships experienced by minority and low-income people compared to the rest of the population continues to widen, with those who have low paying manufacturing, sales, healthcare and service jobs forced to work in person while others are able to work from home.   This combined with generally denser living conditions and more common comorbidities has led to much higher case and death rates  of COVID-19 among these individuals.  Furthermore, over half of people of color surveyed are facing economic challenges as a result of the pandemic (reported here, here and here).

 

The depth of the crisis has been exacerbated by irresponsible actions of the government and private enterprises at national, state and local levels. At the federal level there is a glaring lack of national plan to address the pandemic with government officials failing to act and even encouraging people to flaunt public health rules. Congress continues in its failure to enact adequate legislation to provide economic relief to those impacted. The response of State governments has been uneven, with some States acting more responsibly and others being totally negligent.  In the private sector, employers are unrestrained by any pandemic-related safety regulations. Universities, pursuing a business model of success, prematurely opened for in-person instruction, creating hot spots for spreading COVID-19.

In justifying failed policies, government officials often promote a false and dangerous dichotomy between public health and economic growth. In fact the two are deeply intertwined. Economic deprivation increases morbidity and mortality,  while opening businesses and permitting public gatherings without adequate planning and testing, leads to outbreaks which disrupt economic growth. Indeed, countries that have used strong social policies to contain the cases and deaths in the pandemic have tended to do the best economically.

Scientific facts and concepts are critical to developing an effective pandemic policy.  Yet these concepts have been distorted and “weaponized” by government actors and conservative politicians. Added to the outright lies that COVID is no worse than the flu and that a vaccine would be available in a few weeks are more subtle distortions. For example:

  1. Herd immunity is a valid concept that describes how the spread of an epidemic declines when enough members of a population become immune to an infection so that propagation of the infection in the population is not sustained.  It is most safely achieved by mass vaccination.  This concept has been used to irresponsibly suggest that letting the pandemic run its course without public health intervention is a reasonable public health strategy. 
  2. Vaccines are expected to be effective in protecting individuals and slowing down the pandemic.   But they are not a panacea that negates the importance of public health restrictions and safer workplaces.   To do so, will result in many more lives lost and slow the process of economic recovery.  Every case prevented before and as  vaccines are  distributed will make vaccines more effective in limiting the spread and impact of the pandemic..

At the same time that scientific concepts are distorted in justifying irresponsible policies, important scientific research is neglected.  In order to minimize the spread and impact of COVID-19 we need more scientific knowledge on multiple fronts:  For example, we need studies to understand how long immunity lasts after recovery from COVID-19 and the long-term effects after recovery. We need better information on the comparative dangers of various activities, e.g. opening elementary schools, outdoor social gatherings, as well as the impacts of pandemic-related restrictions on child development and how to address them. We also need to determine the extent of additive and synergistic effects of COVID-19 and environmental exposures like air pollution, and the efficacy of vaccines across virus strains and against transmission from asymptomatic individuals. Finally, we must understand and address the reasons for “vaccine hesitancy”. Answers to these questions will enable us to save many lives and promote economic recovery. But research on these questions is inadequately supported by government and private sector organizations and when it is done it is often scattered, incomplete and distorted by political agendas.

The use of scientific work in combatting the pandemic has also been set back by an erosion of trust in critical federal public health agencies such as the CDC and FDA. Scientists exposing problems in public health policy in these agencies have been silenced or intimidated, and the agencies have often provided conflicting and inconsistent information to the public. Although workplaces are key settings for spreading the pandemic, the leading federal agencies on occupational health, OSHA and NIOSH, have been almost completely ineffective in making workplaces safer in terms of the spread of COVID-19.  OSHA has received thousands of whistleblower complaints related to COVID and has failed to act on almost all of them. Federal emergency paid sick leave is far from adequate and leaves many workers uncovered.

It is expected that the new administration in Washington will be more truthful in reporting on the status of the pandemic and will rely more on public health and scientific expertise in making policy decisions.  These are welcome changes. However, this will not be enough to combat the health and economic crisis we are facing. To do so we need:

  1. A national plan to control the pandemic that combines stringent public health restrictions with generous economic support to those most impacted by the pandemic.
  2. Strong federal and state legislation providing economic support to those most impacted by the pandemic, including ample, comprehensive and extended unemployment benefits, child care support, an end to evictions and support for gig, contingent and contract workers.
  3. Development and enforcement of regulatory standards for protecting workers from COVID hazards, including provisions for decreasing worker density, minimizing exposure, protection for whistleblowers and comprehensive extended paid leave for those ill with COVID, in quarantine, isolation or needed to provide assistance to family members.  These must be applied for all workers including undocumented, temporary, contract and gig workers.
  4. A detailed plan to distribute vaccines when they become available with proper consideration of optimizing deployment to minimize the spread and impact of the pandemic, and equity in distribution to different sectors of the population. For example, priority must be given to vaccinating prisoners and prison workers, because prisons are hotspots of the pandemic.
  5. Rebuilding and enhancement of the scientific and public health infrastructure that has declined in recent years, and promotion of research that examines the social and political determinants of disease spread and impact.
  6. A national plan to provide free universal healthcare coverage to all people, including undocumented immigrants.