Episode

8/10 Activism After Disappointment; Climate Change Illness Grows w/ Sara Marcus, Zoya Teirstein

August 10, 2023

It’s an EmMajority Report Thursday! She speaks with Sara Marcus, assistant professor of English at the University of Notre Dame, about her recent book Political Disappointment: A Cultural History from Reconstruction to the AIDS Crisis. Then, Emma is joined by Zoya Teirstein, climate change and health reporter at Grist, to discuss her recent reporting on climate change-related illnesses. Emma starts off by highlight reporting in Bloomberg that showed how the city of Minneapolis had beaten back inflation in no small part due to a concerted effort to build more affordable housing in the city. Emma also touches upon Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro’s visit to Eagle Pass, Texas, as he surveyed the absolutely evil conditions Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had set up at the Southern border to control and deter migration. Then Emma is joined by Sara, and they begin their conversation by specifying what the moments of “political disappointment” in American history are per her scholarship, and what are the specific characteristics that makes these moments correlate with one another. As Sarah explains, these moments (starting with Reconstruction and ending with the response to the AIDS crisis in the 1980’s) bear similarities in the cultural responses to them. Emma notes that the moments that Sara highlights, that of “political disappointment” aren’t monocultural historical moments from the 1960’s, but ones that center on marginalized communities. Sara observes how the narratives of “progress” perpetuated in American history are ones that are clearly rebutted and contradicted by the experiences of marginalized communities, as writers like WEB Dubois observed in their writings. They then touch on another moment outlined in Sara’s research, the Civil Rights Movement, and how her thesis manifested in ideological and strategic conflict between Martin Luther King Jr. & Stokely Carmichael, and how that conflict was ultimately exacerbated by the people reporting on and historicizing it. They jump back in time to Sara’s research on the 1930’s, specifically the quarrels that characterized the politics surrounding the New Deal, specifically within the American Communist movement in the fight against fascism, and how the factionalism at the time complicated and blurred the lines of racial coalitions at the time. Emma reflects on how some of these notions that Sara outlines, and how they show some strong parallels with some of the disaffection of young voters on the Left who, galvanized by Bernie Sanders’ 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns, are unsure of what may come in the future that may replicate that, if anything. They touch on the feminist movement in the 1960’s and 1970’s, before ending the conversation on Sara’s section on the AIDS crisis.

Then, Emma speaks with Zoya, and asks her to react to some of the footage coming out of the island of Maui in Hawaii, that’s been besieged by raging wildfires. Zoya observes that this summer has been a summer of weather extremes across the country, and that the situation in Maui is no different. Emma asks Zoya if she thinks there’s been a larger media reckoning in how climate change has been covered, seeing now that, in the context of the air quality issues in New York City earlier in the summer, that extreme weather issues have come home to everyone nationwide as opposed to the protection from them some may expect on the East Coast in urban centers. Emma and Zoya then dive into her reporting in Grist, and how Samoa and its residents, as well as its physicians, have been on the forefront of climate-related illness, both experiencing it and treating it, and, in Zoya’s estimation, it’d be a mistake for medical practitioners to not try and emulate early treatment methods that Samoan doctors are developing. Emma asks Zoya what she thinks are some heat and climate-related illnesses may become more and more prominent as extreme weather events begin to become more and more common. Emma asks how some of these climate-related illnesses, like fungal-based illnesses or illnesses like dengue fever, are able to migrate when they may have been previously unable to, and how lower-income areas with less supported water and sanitation infrastructure can be even more adversely affected by this disease migration. They end the conversation by touching on Zoya’s most recent piece, about the heat-related illnesses found in people in Phoenix, Arizona, after 31 straight days of over 110 degree heat. Zoya, trying to stem the tide of doomerism, ultimately does qualify that there have been serious and encouraging medical breakthroughs to help mitigate these issues (whew!).

And in the Fun Half,  Emma is joined by Brandon and Binder as they break down Michael Knowles hawking an abortion reversal pill, Fox News highlighting a Mom on TikTok…bemoaning American capitalism??, Matt Walsh complains that people care more about the fate of hummingbirds than the fate of white people, and Twitter flack Linda Yaccarino tries to claim that X (??) is even safer than it was a year ago (Binder, you’d be surprised, doesn’t agree with this!). Plus, your calls & IM’s!

Check out Sara’s book here: https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674248656

Check out Zoya’s reporting at Grist here: https://grist.org/author/zoya-teirstein/

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