Monthly Archives: August 2017

Navalny’s Gamble

Alexei Navalny via Wikimedia Commons.

Alexei Navalny via Wikimedia Commons.

Recently, Russia’s uncommonly chilly early summer and volatile political atmosphere gave rise to a joke. Putin goes to a fortune teller and asks: “How long do I have left?” The fortune teller responds, “You have one summer.” “All right,” Putin says, “No more summers!”

The delayed summer weather finally arrived, but Putin’s government is still pretending that the protests that have been occurring since late March are isolated eruptions fomented by provocateurs, in particular by the opposition blogger Alexei Navalny. To maintain this pretense the authorities have deployed overt repression, covert intimidation, and ideological indoctrination to stifle public displays of dissent. Yet the recent wave of protests on June 12, Russia’s Independence Day, demonstrated that these tactics have only inflamed the spirit of disobedience.

Many young Russians are eager to proclaim their independence from the corrupt and unjust regime, and the March 26 protests, dubbed “the children’s crusade,” announced that a new generation has joined politics. High schoolers and college students who have grown up under Putin have paradoxically turned out to be more free and idealistic than their parents who had a taste of Gorbachev’s glasnost and Yeltsin’s reforms. Their youthful enthusiasm in denouncing corruption and naive assertion of their constitutional right to free assembly caught everyone, including the government and its obedient media, by surprise.

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In Defense of Dirty Meat: Ecology, Techno-Utopianism, and the Cultured Meat Movement

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Over the past year, we’ve been inundated with stories proclaiming the imminent arrival of “clean” or “cultured” meat. “Lab-grown meat is in your future,” asserts the Washington Post, while Business Insider announces that affordable cultured meat is projected to hit the shelves by next year. Whether this news generates feelings of relief or revulsion, there seems to be near-unanimous agreement that this development is significant. Like many other Silicon Valley wonders, a comforting, techno-utopian aura pervades the whole idea. The homepage of one such cultured meat venture, the Good Food Institute invites us to “imagine a food system where the most affordable and delicious products are also good for our bodies and the planet.” In other words, we are encouraged choose “clean meat”—midwifed by scientists in white coats—rather than “dirty meat” with all its attendant blood, pain, and negative environmental effects.

But is the difference between conventional and cultured meat a difference that makes a difference? The folks at the Good Food Institute would say yes, claiming there is no difference in taste and nutrition, but every difference in the ethical and environmental consequences of meat consumption. Who wouldn’t want to eat a cruelty-free, environmentally sustainable, and (allegedly) delicious alternative to farmed animal protein? Who—other than the millions of people working in the animal food processing industry and a handful of recalcitrant foodies—could possibly object to such an effortless solution to all the ethical and environmental problems posed by conventional farming? Continue reading

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