2021
October
06
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Monitor Daily Podcast

October 06, 2021
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TODAY’S INTRO

Baseball’s Shohei Ohtani: Challenging the limits of what’s possible

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

As the Major League Baseball playoffs begin (Go, Red Sox!), we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the majesty of a once-in-a-century player. 

Japan’s Shohei Ohtani is the first true two-way player in U.S. baseball since Babe Ruth. Like Ruth, Mr. Ohtani has challenged the concept of sports specialization and redefined the limits of what’s humanly possible.  

Mr. Ohtani didn’t just hit and pitch for an entire season, in 2021 he was an elite starting pitcher and elite batter. He’s “pulled off the most amazing season in baseball history,” wrote Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci. 

Mr. Ohtani’s team, the Los Angeles Angels, didn’t make the playoffs. But he’s in the running for both the American League’s Most Valuable Player and the Cy Young Award as the best pitcher. He swings with power and pitches with finesse, and he is among the league’s fastest base runners. 

Mr. Ohtani finished third in home runs (46). By the end of August, he had hit the most homers 430 feet or more (15). On the mound, he throws five different pitches, and his fastball gets even faster later in the game. Mr. Ohtani’s split-finger fastball is the best pitch ever thrown in terms of effectiveness against batters, according to Baseball Savant. 

Yet, one of baseball’s top aces, Max Scherzer, says Mr. Ohtani is still developing as a pitcher. In August, Mr. Ohtani agreed: “I’m getting better each outing, and I still haven’t hit my potential yet.

Baseball fans can’t wait to see what Mr. Ohtani does next season.

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A deeper look

‘Just keep it flowing.’ Three people working to untangle supply chain.

Our reporter examines the global supply chain problem through the eyes of three key players – who offer ways it might be fixed.

David
Mike Blake/Reuters
The congested Port of Los Angeles is shown from San Pedro, California, Sept. 29, 2021. Mario Cordero, executive director of the adjacent Port of Long Beach, sees a 24/7 work schedule as one answer to port backlogs. But such a change is "not that simple" to implement, he says.

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Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, combined, move more than 40% of all cargo containers entering the United States. The complex has become a critical chokepoint in a tangled global web of shortages and shipping troubles, affecting everything from toilet paper (again!) to auto parts. 

Questions about how to bolster supply chains go beyond the pandemic and its effects, says Dan Breznitz, who co-directs an Innovation Policy Lab at the University of Toronto. Even once the current backlog is resolved, the challenge of managing risk in supply chains remains, especially amid worries about overreliance on imports from China.

“I think we have a serious problem with the way we produce stuff, and I don’t think this is going away,” says Professor Breznitz. 

To unravel what’s happening, the Monitor visited with three human links in the LA supply chain – the director of ship traffic control for Southern California, a harbor trucker, and a toy store retailer. The challenges range from a line of waiting ships to a pileup of empty containers clogging the port. 

For now, retailer Christina Mullin is putting the best face on it. Looking afresh for alternative toy vendors in the U.S., she says “it’s an opportunity to sometimes try something new.”

‘Just keep it flowing.’ Three people working to untangle supply chain.

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Inside Miracle Mile Toys & Gifts in Los Angeles, owner Christina Mullin is deftly guiding a customer past the disruption in toy deliveries caused by the global supply chain backup. Of specific concern is an adorable wooden train that carries safari animals.

“We’re out of that,” she apologizes to a woman who wants it for her little boy. Then follows up: “Can I take your name?” She’ll contact the customer when it arrives. But the woman is from out of town, so Ms. Mullin suggests a different wooden train. It’s the same brand, and comes with a remote control. The mother is happy with that and leaves with an additional gift, a tray of plush, play sushi for her daughter. So California. 

“I hope against hope that I get my order before Christmas,” says Ms. Mullin about the popular train and other items on back order. She’s no expert, she explains, but she thinks they might be on a container ship somewhere, because they’re made in China. Meanwhile, she’s looking to try some new products, and help customers “find a new favorite.” 

Ms. Mullin’s missing toys could very well be aboard one of the dozens of ships that are waiting to enter the port complex of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The twin ports move more than 40% of all cargo containers entering the United States.

Now the complex has become a critical chokepoint in a tangled global web of shortages and shipping troubles, affecting everything from school lunches to toilet paper (again!) to auto parts. To unravel what’s happening, the Monitor visited with three human links in the LA supply chain – the director of ship traffic control for Southern California, a harbor trucker, and the toy-store retailer. Their stories illustrate the interconnectedness of the problems, and efforts to address them. 

“Any small disruption is a multiplier,” when supply chains are stretched, says Gad Allon, a professor of operations, information, and decision at the Wharton School in Philadelphia. Ports that are already running near capacity can’t catch up when their operations are disrupted. “When you close a port in China for a week, it’s going to have a massive impact.”  

That’s not a hypothetical statement. The bottleneck here in Los Angeles is just one link in a global supply chain that lacks lubrication. For months, factories in Asia have faced shortages of parts, raw materials, and workers amid the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus. Ports in China have had to halt operations. The Suez Canal closure in March, when a giant ship ran aground, imposed lasting ripple effects. In recent weeks, Chinese factories have experienced power shortages due to energy rollbacks ordered by local governments trying to hit their emissions targets. 

Alongside squeezed supply is rebounding demand for goods. A surge in activity is coming from U.S. consumers, shopping from home and juiced by stimulus checks and low interest rates.  

In the short term, companies will find workarounds to speed up deliveries of U.S.-bound goods, but there are no easy fixes. For example, airlines are flying less so they offer fewer cargo holds for transporting finished goods.

For the longer term, questions about how to bolster supply chains go beyond the pandemic and its effects, says Dan Breznitz, a professor of public policy at the University of Toronto who co-directs its Innovation Policy Lab. Even once the current backlog is resolved, the challenge of managing risk in supply chains remains, especially amid worries about overreliance on imports from China

“I think we have a serious problem with the way we produce stuff, and I don’t think this is going away,” says Professor Breznitz. “We have a system that is very vulnerable.” 

Francine Kiefer/The Christian Science Monitor
Capt. J. Kipling (Kip) Louttit, executive director of the Marine Exchange of Southern California, stands on the balcony of the building where he oversees traffic control for ships entering and leaving the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, on Sept. 27, 2021. In the background is San Pedro Bay, where ships are anchored, awaiting a berth to unload.

Like air traffic control, but for ships

Capt. J. Kipling (Kip) Louttit has been around ports most of his life. His father was a welder in a shipyard in Pennsylvania, then enlisted in the Navy, and ended up in the publishing business in Manhattan. Because he loved the water, he bought a boat for his family when Kip was just 10 years old. The youngster found he was “really good at this water thing,” and went on to a decadeslong career with the U.S. Coast Guard, from which he is now retired.

He couldn’t stay away from the water, though, and now he’s the executive director of the Marine Exchange of Southern California, which controls ship traffic in and out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. From his vantage point on a hill near a former defense battery, he has a commanding view of the docks and cranes of the twin ports, San Pedro Bay, Santa Catalina Island, and the ships in the area.

“I’m the true romantic who is the son of a romantic,” he says.

He’s also an operations guy, repeating his mantra of “safe, secure, efficient, reliable, and environmentally sound marine transportation.” The past 18 months have put him and his team of 20 people to the test.

They have had to navigate the pandemic in a round-the-clock operation that meant no vacations last year as well as relocating the general manager to his home garage – where he is still working, set up with computers and radar. They have also had to manage a historic surge in ship traffic that has been breaking records for weeks on end, while communicating with ship captains who may not know the port complex and for whom English may not be their first language.

Francine Kiefer/The Christian Science Monitor
Hector Gallardo, a ship traffic controller for the Marine Exchange of Southern California in San Pedro, keeps his eye on a radar screen showing the positions of dozens of ships awaiting entry to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on Sept. 27, 2021. The left side shows the big picture, including ships in drift areas. The right side shows a close-up of the "precautionary area," where shipping lanes intersect and where most of the anchorages are located. He uses the gray radio to communicate with the ships.

Because the ports are full, ships are directed to anchor in specific spots to await their turn. But those spots are also at capacity, and so ships are sent farther out to drift areas. The drifting ships turn off engines that power their propellers, repositioning themselves when necessary, and are advised to keep 2 miles apart. On Sept. 19, a record 73 container ships were at anchor or drifting. Normally, one container ship – or none – is at anchor. Captain Louttit calls this a “podium kicker” statistic. Pay attention.

Captain Louttit objects to descriptions of the port backup as a “traffic jam,” because it implies ships blocking the middle of the road. The shipping lanes in and out of the ports and up and down the coast are clear, with the Marine Exchange assigning and watching over “parking places” for ships in an orderly way, he explains.

“We can handle virtually any number of ships. It’s not like landing at LAX, with one ship every minute,” he says, referring to the international airport. “But the consequences of an accident are huge, particularly in terms of an oil spill fouling Southern California waters.”

The comment, made before this month’s oil spill, now seems prescient. Federal investigators say a cargo vessel’s anchor may have hooked an underwater pipeline, tearing it and spilling 140,000 gallons of oil along the Southern California coastline. Anchor dragging is rare, and the anchor sites are away from critical infrastructure like pipelines and communication lines. 

Right now is peak shipping season in preparation for the holidays. The ports can normally handle this, but the problem is the backlog, says Captain Louttit. Last year the peak season was amplified by people buying home gym equipment, outfitting home offices, and remodeling their homes. Then add to that all the cash that people did not spend on vacations and theme parks, plus workers out because of illness or quarantine. It’s rippled across the docks to the trains, the trucks, the warehouses, the forklift drivers. “So the system choked, and they haven’t been able to clear it since.”

His answer? Put the entire goods movement system on a 24/7 work schedule, “to both clear the backlog, and then compete in the future.”

He’s not the only one thinking that way.

Truckers turned away at the ports

“Everybody’s trying to get creative nowadays, and see how we can keep cargo flowing,” says Gio Marz, from the loading dock of Atlas Marine, a Long Beach trucking and warehouse company where he is the operations manager. 

When you grow up in the port area, you become one of three things, says Mr. Marz: a longshoreman on the docks, a refinery worker, or a trucker. Mr. Marz got his commercial driver’s license when he was 18, and he’s been driving trucks pretty much ever since. He sometimes still drives his own rig, and mentioned a personal experience from the spring that speaks directly to the hours issue.

To drop off or pick up a container, a trucker needs an appointment at a port terminal, which comes with a grace period. But with full ports, everyone is trying to get to their appointment on time, so they arrive early, which makes for a huge line. While some terminals are more lenient than others, it’s not unusual that the congestion causes truckers to miss their appointments and have to turn around.

Francine Kiefer/The Christian Science Monitor
Gio Marz, director of operations for Atlas Marine trucking and storage in Long Beach, California, shows off one of the company’s new rigs powered by natural gas on Sept. 28, 2021. Mr. Marz says that for harbor truckers, it’s not a lack of drivers that’s the problem, but workflow and congestion at the ports as well as an acute shortage of chassis to haul full containers.

That’s what happened with Mr. Marz earlier this year. He pulled up at a terminal at the Port of Los Angeles – the largest port in the U.S. – at the exact last minute of his grace period. “They told me, ‘Driver, you do not have an appointment.’” He had to turn around. “I literally made no money for four or five hours.” Normally, that would have been a $500 job.

Mr. Marz blames the work rules at the docks that bring everything to a full stop for lunch and shift changes. “Just keep it flowing,” he says, including starting earlier. Drivers would love to be able to pull up at 4 or 5 a.m. and avoid LA traffic. 

Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach – America’s second-largest port, just 4 miles from the Port of Los Angeles – has been preaching the 24/7 message since before the pandemic. Asia’s on that schedule, he says, and given the long-term trajectory of growth in container shipping, the U.S. should be, too. Long Beach is trying out an extended schedule at one of its six terminals, but Mr. Cordero says moving to round-the-clock operations is going to take time. “For this to work, the supply chain has to buy into this. The truckers. The warehouses. The railroads. It’s not that simple.”

Even if the ports were open for longer, that still would not solve another big problem – no place for truckers to deliver empty shipping containers. Long Beach cleared 64 acres of space for empties, but that’s now full, and some drivers are literally leaving empty containers in the streets. The empties are important for what’s underneath them – chassis. Truckers need a chassis to haul a new, full container, and right now there’s a huge chassis shortage because so many of them are stuck under empty containers. 

Mr. Cordero says he’s looking for new places to put empty containers and is in discussion with ship lines that refuse to carry empties back to Asia. In the past, they have sent vessels to take back empties. 

“It all boils down to the chassis story,” says Mr. Marz, noting that half the containers in his company’s yard are empty. He’s trying to work around the problem by making sure that each transaction at a terminal involves a drop-off and a pickup, and by scouring the internet for export opportunities to load up empty containers. He thinks things will get worse before they get better, “so do your Christmas shopping now.” 

Francine Kiefer/The Christian Science Monitor
Christina Mullin, owner of Miracle Mile Toys & Gifts, holds a dinosaur in her shop in Los Angeles on Sept. 24, 2021. She normally has about 20 types of this popular item, but because of the supply chain backup, she only has about five or six. She is looking for alternative makers.

The early holiday shopper

At Miracle Mile Toys & Gifts, a few customers have shopped for the holidays, and one purchased a dollhouse early to avoid being disappointed later. Ms. Mullin is storing it for her until closer to gifting time. Vendors have urged the experienced retailer to order early so she can secure a place in line, and she has followed their advice. As it is, a good portion of every order is either not available, or not due in until November, December, or even January. It’s all random, she says.

And yet, Ms. Mullin is keeping a “positive attitude.” After all, it’s a toy store! Grown-ups and kids come there to have fun – to touch and squeeze the cushiony avocado, cupcake, and double cherry (no shortage of those); connect the wooden animal puzzle at the play station; or check out the costumes and capes in the loft. Hers is a neighborhood store, with repeat customers. Fortunately, she has a lot of stock from an earlier, larger location. And she is actively looking for alternatives – turning to an American toy truck manufacturer, for instance, instead of a European brand. 

“There’s still plenty for me to choose from,” given the many vendors in the industry, she says. “It’s an opportunity to sometimes try something new.”

Staff writer Simon Montlake contributed to this article from Boston.

Patterns

Tracing global connections

Can liberal government deliver? Question on both sides of Atlantic.

As Germany forms a new center-left government, our columnist writes, a key question in Europe and the U.S. is whether progressive leadership can effectively deliver on its vision – and regain voter trust.

David

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From Germany to Britain to the United States, political leaders who tack left of center face two common challenges. One is discerning what’s politically possible for their ambitious social, economic, and environmental agendas. The other, closely linked to the first, is establishing popular trust that the government can deliver. 

The stakes are high. The political climate is unsettled, and the bond between voters and mainstream political parties is frayed. Without this bedrock of trust, any change agenda becomes more difficult.

In all three countries, these leaders are staking out common ground. In Germany, Social Democratic Party leader Olaf Scholz, the surprise front-runner to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel, positioned himself as a progressive pragmatist able to deliver change and stability. In the United Kingdom, Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, drew sharp heckling from far-left members at a recent party conference. Yet his retort, to loud applause, was: Should we be “shouting slogans ... or changing lives?”

In Washington, President Joe Biden is trying to push his far-reaching infrastructure and reconciliation bills through Congress. If he can demonstrate that government actually can “change lives,” he might have made a start on achieving something of potentially deeper importance: restoring trust, and the bond between government and the governed.

Can liberal government deliver? Question on both sides of Atlantic.

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Michele Tantussi/Reuters
Olaf Scholz, the German Social Democratic Party's top candidate for chancellor, gives a statement after a party leadership meeting in Berlin, Oct. 6, 2021.

Germany, fresh from an election revival for the Social Democrats, is starting the task of forming its first government in nearly 16 years without Angela Merkel. In Britain, the Labour Party has held a potentially redefining national conference. And American President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party is grappling for a way forward on the centerpieces of his domestic agenda.

All these political dramas have something important in common: They’ve highlighted a pair of shared challenges now facing center-left political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic.

The first is how to square their ambitions for social, economic, and environmental change with what’s politically possible. The second, related test could prove even more daunting: securing – or, in the case of the United States, beginning to resuscitate – popular trust in central government. 

The stakes are high. For now, the political winds seem to be blowing in these leaders’ direction, in part because of the economic and social shock waves from the pandemic. Social democratic politicians hold the reins in a growing number of European countries, along with the Democrats in Washington.

But there’s no guarantee that will last. The political climate remains unsettled. And the bond between voters, especially younger voters, and mainstream political parties has become far more tenuous than it was in years past. Without this bedrock of trust – not just in the parties but in government itself – any kind of change agenda is bound to be more difficult.

Constructing a coalition

In Germany, the economic and political fulcrum of the European Union, all these elements will be playing out in the coming weeks amid negotiations to assemble a new coalition.

Social Democratic Party leader Olaf Scholz emerged from last month’s election as the surprise front-runner to replace Chancellor Merkel, who will remain as caretaker until the new government takes office.   

The SDP, once one of Europe’s pre-eminent progressive parties, had been inexorably losing support since the turn of this century. It had sunk to a barely 20% share of the vote.

But Mr. Scholz, boosted by having been finance minister in the last Merkel coalition, positioned himself as a progressive pragmatist, someone who could deliver needed social, economic, and environmental change without forfeiting the sense of political stability Germans drew from Ms. Merkel's long period in charge.

Though the SPD won only by a whisker, it did add 5% to its vote. Ms. Merkel’s center-right party crashed by nearly 9%.

Younger voters, however, deserted both major parties. They gravitated to the two smaller, socially liberal parties that Mr. Scholz will now need in order to form a government: the Greens and the Free Democrats.

That could mean tricky policy tradeoffs. But from Mr. Scholz’s perspective, the challenge all the potential coalition partners face is a potentially unifying one: to demonstrate that meaningful political change – generational change, too – is possible.

In other words: that progressive government can work, garnering the breadth of popular support needed both to address social issues and adapt the EU’s largest economy to the environmental and digital prerequisites of a changing world.

Britain takes notes

It’s a quest that other center-left politicians all over Europe will be watching, but few more closely than Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party in Britain.

When he took over two years ago from far-left Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Labour had been out of power for a decade. It had just suffered its worst election result since the 1930s. Barring a move by Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson to call an early vote, the next election remains several years away, and Labour is still being given little chance of winning it. 

But last week, at an annual conference marked by strident criticism from Corbyn loyalists, Mr. Starmer pointed Labour in a pragmatic, center-left direction more along the lines of Mr. Scholz – and of former Labour leaders Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, who were in charge the last time the party was in power.

Heckled by left-wing protesters, he asked the conference, to loud applause: Should we be “shouting slogans … or changing lives?”

The question left hanging – how, in practical political terms, to “change lives” – is what’s now being navigated in Washington by President Biden and his fellow Democrats. They’re trying to figure out a way to pass both an infrastructure bill and a budget-reconciliation package with a raft of new social, economic and environmental programs.

The most obvious obstacle Mr. Biden faces is congressional mathematics: He’ll need every one of the Democratic votes in the Senate to succeed.

But his longer-term challenges are shared with Messrs. Scholz and Starmer: to demonstrate that government can deliver.

There is one key difference: While there have been growing divisions and disenchantment in most Western democracies over the last decade, the rifts run deepest in the U.S.

Having just read a remarkable new book by New Yorker writer Evan Osnos called “Wildland: The Making of America’s Fury,” I was struck by some poll numbers he cited. In 1964, 77% of Americans said they trusted their government. By 2014, it was just 18%.

That’s a powerful reminder that, despite the difficulties Mr. Biden is facing in shaping a legislative package that can get through the Senate, if he can actually do so and, in Mr. Starmer’s words, “change lives,” he might have made at least a start on achieving something of potentially deeper importance: restoring Americans’ trust, and the bond between government and the governed.

Once sidelined, Norway’s migrant minorities earn a voice in parliament

A core democratic value is giving voice to the minority. The election of visible minorities to Norway’s top political positions signals a stronger, more diversified, and representative democracy. We look at how that’s happening.

David
Courtesy of Martin Grüner Larsen
Mariam Hussein poses in the "wandering gallery," an open area outside the parliamentary chamber in Oslo, Norway. Ms. Hussein is the first ethnic Somali elected into the Norwegian parliament.

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Shazia Majid, a Pakistani Norwegian investigative journalist, is thrilled by the history-making composition of Norway’s new parliament. Eleven out of the 169 lawmakers elected last month represent visible minorities, and immigrants are now represented roughly in proportion to their fraction of the eligible voting population.

“Every community needs to be represented among lawmakers in any country,” says Ms. Majid. “This is a case of Norway giving opportunities and kids of immigrants grabbing those opportunities with both hands.”

Some see in this class of politicians evidence of a gradual and subtle shift in what it means to be Norwegian; a sign the nation is coming into its own as a multicultural society.

Visible minorities are relatively new in Norway. The country characterized the guest workers that began arriving in the 1970s from Pakistan, India, Morocco, and Turkey as “alien” workers. Migrant communities grew over the years – especially in the capital, Oslo, where 1 in 3 residents today are of migrant background.

Ms. Majid still remembers when the first politician with a migrant background entered Norwegian parliament in 2001. It dawned on her then that anyone could reach the highest positions of power. “That is why representation is so important,” she says.

Once sidelined, Norway’s migrant minorities earn a voice in parliament

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Marian Hussein started her first day at the Norwegian parliament rushing to overcome technical glitches before plunging into politics. “I am out of my comfort zone but I am looking forward to this,” says Ms. Hussein, smiling during a Zoom call.

Her journey into the vanilla brick parliament building in the heart of Oslo is the outcome of a colorful upbringing. It started in Somalia, where her father trained as an engineer, and included time in the Saudi city of Jedda before arriving in the forest-fringed rural Oslo borough of Stovner at the age of 10. As the first ethnic Somali woman in parliament, she hopes to change the conversations on race, religion, and migration, and push policies that reduce inequality.

“I have always been a minority and that gives you perspective in life on how we treat people who look different or how your status as a citizen is different,” says Ms. Hussein, who entered Norwegian society as a refugee and politics as a member of the Socialist Left Party. “Being here today, I also think Norway is the land of opportunities.”

Ms. Hussein is part of the most diverse group of legislators to set foot in the Storting, Norway’s parliament, having started work on Oct. 1. Eleven out of the 169 lawmakers elected last month represent visible minorities who trace their roots back to Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Immigrants are now represented roughly in proportion to their fraction of the eligible voting population.

Some see in this class of politicians evidence of a gradual and subtle shift in what it means to be Norwegian; a sign the nation is coming into its own as a multicultural society. At the same time, anti-immigrant populists have also made electoral gains. 

Experts say inclusive party politics and successful integration policies of the oil-rich nation’s welfare state played a role in bringing candidates with such diverse backgrounds to the top.

Norwegian sociologist Grete Brochmann says the development is important from a representation point of view and a reflection of the fact that minority groups are getting more integrated into Norwegian society. “This is also a reflection of a realization that minority groups are important for the success of the parties, particularly parties to the left,” says Dr. Brochmann, who teaches at the University of Oslo.

“We see different things”

Unlike in the United States or the United Kingdom, visible minorities are relatively new in Norway. The oil-rich Scandinavian country characterized the guest workers that began arriving in the 1970s from Pakistan, India, Morocco, and Turkey as “alien” workers. As migrant communities grew over the years – especially in the capital, Oslo, where now 1 in 3 residents are of migrant background – the Norwegian Labour Party recognized the importance of mobilizing that voter base, as have other parties.

Most political careers begin at the local or regional rather than parliamentary level in Norway. Parties choose who to put forward in closed list systems so they determine who rises to the fore. The Labour Party has the highest number of elected parliamentarians with an immigrant origin. Out of the ten parties represented in parliament, most have at least one lawmaker of foreign descent.

“About 80% of politicians that enter parliament have served in a local council,” says Jon H. Fiva, an economics professor at the Norwegian Business School researching the dynamics of political selection in Norway. “This career system means that you will have a substantial time lag from when new groups of people [arrive] ... until they make it to the top of the hierarchy. Even though Norway has had quite a lot of migration for decades, it might take some time before individuals of migrant origin make it to the very top.”

City of Oslo/Sturlason
Kamzy Gunaratnam was elected in 2021 to Norway's parliament, called the Storting. Ms. Gunaratnam was born in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, and served most recently as deputy mayor of Oslo.

That was certainly the experience of Labour Party politician Kamzy Gunaratnam.

She arrived in Norway when she was just 3 years old and became politically active as a teenager, initially motivated by the Tamil conflict in her native Sri Lanka, but later driven by Norwegian issues as well. Her teens were also the first time she felt like an outsider, as she attended secondary school in a predominantly white neighborhood in the western part of Oslo. “Inequality hit me really hard,” she says. “We are brought up with different views on society because we see different things and we’re not living in the same reality.”

She joined Labour in 2005, then was elected to the Oslo city council two years later. Ms. Gunaratnam was at the Workers’ Youth League summer camp on the island of Utøya on July 22, 2011, which was attacked by far-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, leaving 69 people dead. She managed to swim to safety and says that terrifying experience only magnified her resolve to work in politics and turn into reality the promises made by national leaders in the speeches that followed the attacks – fellowship and equality, freedom of speech, openness, democracy. In 2015, Ms. Gunaratnam was elected as Oslo’s deputy mayor.

She is proud to be among six lawmakers who survived that day, although she also worries that the values that galvanized Breivik are more widespread than Norwegians are willing to admit. “What Breivik did was an attack on a diverse Norway, so it is a sort of big slap in the face [to Breivik] for us to enter parliament this year,” she says.

“If she could do it I can do it”

For older migrant generations, the 2021 results mark progress because it shows that migrants have moved up the political ladder versus just being used by parties. “Twenty-five years ago, nobody in Norway was talking about immigrants. Nobody cared about us or what we wanted,” says Khadim Hussain, a native of Pakistan. “But some local politicians wanted our votes and tricked many who didn’t yet master the Norwegian language into voting for political parties we knew nothing about.”

Line Tiller
Khadim Hussein poses in what he says is Oslo’s first Pakistani dessert shop. The Lahore native arrived in Norway at the age of 14 to live with his brother. “Things have changed,” says Mr. Hussain. “Some years ago ethnic Norwegians would look at you … with curiosity. Today we are just like any other character in these streets.”

Shazia Majid, who is Pakistani Norwegian, is thrilled by the history-making composition of the new parliament – not because some members are visible minorities, but because the combination of their cultural, religious, and class backgrounds could inform the development of better policies. They also send a positive message to her children – second-generation Norwegians – that the country’s movers and shakers can come from all walks of life.

“This is an extremely important moment,” says Ms. Majid, an investigative journalist and columnist for the newspaper VG. “Every community needs to be represented among lawmakers in any country. It is essential for democracy. This is a case of Norway giving opportunities and kids of immigrants grabbing those opportunities with both hands.”

She still remembers when the first politician with a migrant background, conservative Afshan Rafiq, entered Norwegian parliament in 2001. That was 30 years after the first guest workers arrived in Norway. It dawned on her then that anyone, even a Muslim, Pakistani woman like her, could reach the highest positions of power in Norway. “I thought ... if she could do it, I can do it,” says Ms. Majid. “That is why representation is so important.”

That sentiment was reinforced for many when Hadia Tajik became culture minister in 2012, the youngest woman and first Muslim to serve in government as a minister. Ms. Hussein is now making history as the first Black woman to enter parliament and the first to wear a hijab in office. With her feminist, anti-racist discourse she is already an inspiration to many young girls.

“I feel more included in Norwegian society now,” says Yasmin Mohammed, a Muslim high school student window shopping with her friends on Karl Johans gate, a commercial street near the stony gray lion statues guarding parliament. She was born in Norway to Somali parents.

“Marian Hussein is the direct reason why I have recently started to look up political articles and books,” she says. “And even though I have no idea what I want to become in life, it’s not impossible I will go into politics in the future.”

Ashraq Said Hussein, who was also at Karl Johans gate, arrived in Norway as a 9-year-old. The Somali native finds it weird – and great – that people from so many multicultural backgrounds will author Norwegian laws.

“I have the feeling many Norwegians still want us foreign looking people to ‘go back where we came from.’ So how did this happen, you know?” she says. “The fact that now we have people in parliament who openly say ‘I am Muslim, Black, woman – and I am here to change things,’ is fantastic.”

Silje Kathrine Sviggum contributed to the concept of this article.

A mayor in Mozambique had a plan for flooding. Then came the cyclone.

One man’s vision to make his city more resilient to climate change was severely tested by a 2019 cyclone. But our reporter found that the fortification (and beautification) of this African city continues.

David

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When Cyclone Idai ripped through central Mozambique in March 2019, it was a brutal setback for the coastal city of Beira. Its mayor had worked for years with international donors to prepare the city’s flood defenses. Beira had started building a waterfront park and added water retention basins to handle floodwaters during cyclones and other extreme weather events. 

The cyclone killed at least 598 people in Mozambique and more than 130,000 had to flee their homes. But the preparation in Beira hadn’t all been in vain. The city’s new drainage canals reduced flooding in some neighborhoods and allowed residents to move back to their homes. 

Since then, money and expertise have poured into Mozambique after donors pledged $1.2 billion for post-cyclone recovery. Some projects have yet to break ground, but others are starting to improve the city’s defenses against heightened climate-related risks in the future. The hope is that by making Beira more resilient, cities in other developing countries can learn from its example. 

And the waterfront park is finally open to the public. “This was the brainchild of the mayor,” says Bontje Marie Zangerling of the World Bank. “He used to tell us stories of how for decades the area along the river was dilapidated, always flooded and crime ridden. Transforming it was a really important dream of his.”

A mayor in Mozambique had a plan for flooding. Then came the cyclone.

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Mike Hutchings/Reuters/File
Flooded buildings are seen in Beira, Mozambique, in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai, March 23, 2019. The city is building up its flood defenses to prepare for future storms.

When a huge cyclone whipped toward central Mozambique in March 2019, Daviz Simango was worried, but he wasn’t surprised.

As mayor of the coastal city of Beira, Mr. Simango had seen extreme weather events become more and more frequent, causing floods that overwhelmed his city’s aging trash-choked canals. He knew climate change was to blame and that his city needed to bolster its flood defenses. 

For as long as he’d been mayor, Mr. Simango, a trained civil engineer, had been working toward this goal. He had drawn up a master plan for making the city and its people flood-resistant by 2035. He’d tapped money and expertise from international donors to rehabilitate seven miles of colonial-era drainage canals. The city had also built a new wastewater treatment plant, started work on a major park, and scooped out massive water retention basins around the city to hold floodwaters.

That day in March 2019, as Cyclone Idai’s 105 mph winds shrieked over Beira, Mr. Simango wondered if it would be enough.

In many ways, Beira’s attempts to bulk up its flood defenses posed an urgent question: How far could a poor city in one of the world’s poorest countries protect itself against climate change? And what lessons might it offer to other parts of the world that face similar threats? 

“We want to avoid being in a vicious cycle of having to rebuild over and over, and then having it destroyed” by extreme weather events, says Bontje Marie Zangerling, a senior urban specialist at the World Bank who has worked on the bank’s projects in Beira. 

When Albano António Carige awoke the next morning, much of Beira, a city of half a million people, was underwater.

Beira looked like it had been stripped for parts, says Mr. Carige, a city councilor. He was barely out of bed that morning when Mr. Simango was at his door, asking for keys to a city council car so he could drive around town and assess the damage.

In the days that followed, Mr. Simango was often spotted in the streets, his shirt sleeves rolled up and collared blue shirt half unbuttoned and wet with sweat.

“He was working a chainsaw, chopping the fallen trees in the middle of the street,” recalls Maria Carlos Pedro, a Beira resident. “His relation with everyone was the same. There was no difference. With him it was like that.”

A city of husks

But Beira’s rebuilding would mean more than just clearing rubble. Flooding had overwhelmed the city’s new canals, sending surges of water through its neighborhoods, while high winds had battered its buildings. Aerial photos showed tin roofs and tree branches poking out of a soup of murky brown water. The Red Cross estimated that 90% of the city was damaged.

As the floodwaters receded, Beira became overnight a city of husks – skeletal building frames and piles of rubble.

“We have been building this city more than 100 years, and in a few hours, everything went out,” Mr. Simango told NPR in an interview after the cyclone.

For Beira’s mayor, who had spent years preparing for a knockout storm, Cyclone Idai was a brutal setback. Across Mozambique, at least 598 people died and more than 130,000 had to flee their homes; Zimbabwe and Malawi also suffered major destruction.

But the preparation hadn’t been in vain. Take the city’s new drainage canals that overflowed when the rains fell: Neighborhoods abutting the canals suffered less flooding overall and the floodwaters receded more quickly, allowing residents to mop up and move back.

For Selemane Alberto, who lives in Munhava, an area where storm drains had been improved before the storm, the difference was striking.

“In my neighborhood you would not walk a few steps without stepping on water, but [after Idai] it was different,” he says. “As much as it rains, you walk without having to take off your shoes.”

But the storm also clarified how much more needed to be done. While the extent of flooding was less than in previous storms, the cyclonic winds crumpled entire neighborhoods, peeling off roofs and sending trees and power lines crashing through buildings. “If there was no wind,” Mr. Simango said at the time, “maybe we could survive.”

The United Nations called Idai one of the worst weather events ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere.

“Suddenly you have a natural event that reveals all the problems – it’s the moment of the revelation,” says Lizardo Narvaez, a senior disaster risk management specialist at the World Bank, who works on the bank’s projects in Beira. “It’s not that the things weren’t like that before. They were. But now you have this momentum and everyone sees what needs to be addressed.”

Mr. Simango already knew well why action was needed. “Climate change is here,” he told The New York Times in 2018, a year before Cyclone Idai. “Things are changing in the city.”

Build back better

In the weeks and months after the storm, money and expertise poured into Beira. At a conference held in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, in June 2019, international donors pledged $1.2 billion for post-cyclone recovery.

“There is a need to build back better, to look at infrastructure, resilience of communities in a different way,” Noura Hamladji, the U.N. Development Program’s deputy regional director for Africa, told the conference.

For Mayor Simango, that meant investing in better housing in Beira, so buildings wouldn’t collapse in cyclone winds. It meant expanding the canal system to informal shack settlements where drainage remained spotty. It meant fortifying the city’s sea walls and finishing a major urban park, which would serve both as a natural flood defense for the city and a public space for its young people.

Two and a half years after the storm, most of those projects have yet to break ground, which experts say is typical for large reconstruction efforts. The World Bank says it expects to begin work on coastal wall reconstruction and new drainage canals in 2023.

But one project that has been completed is the new park on the banks of the Chiveve River. “This was the brainchild of the mayor,” says Ms. Zangerling of the World Bank. “He used to tell us stories of how for decades the area along the river was dilapidated, always flooded and crime ridden. Transforming it was a really important dream of his.”

The 108-acre park includes groves of replanted mangroves – a natural defense against flooding – as well as exhibition buildings, restaurants, a market, an open-air amphitheater, a botanical garden, and outdoor gyms. For Mr. Simango, it was a clean, spacious public area where city residents could spend time.

But the mayor never saw the project completed. In February this year, he suddenly fell ill. He was airlifted to a hospital in South Africa, where he died on Feb. 22, reportedly of complications from COVID-19. He was 57.

Only a week before he died, “we were talking about how we could finish potholes” and tar the rest of the city’s roads, says Mr. Carige, who replaced him as Beira’s mayor.

But despite Mr. Simango’s death, Mr. Carige says his predecessor’s legacy will live on in the projects he started to protect his city against climate change.

“[He] is why, if you see, Beira city had an extraordinary revolution,” he says.

Book review

Mary Beth Meehan’s photos dissolve distances between people

A photographer’s latest book seeks to close the widening gaps of inequality and misunderstanding by helping Silicon Valley neighbors to see one another more fully and empathetically. 

David
Mary Beth Meehan
Warren (foreground) launched Thuuz, a service that creates highlights of sporting events in real time. The entrepreneur says he’s not striving to become one of Silicon Valley’s giants, whom he sees as being too willing to cross ethical boundaries.

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Silicon Valley conjures images of high-tech millionaires living like modern-day kings. The reality, as photographer Mary Beth Meehan depicts in the book “Seeing Silicon Valley: Life Inside a Fraying America,” is strikingly different.

“The dominant narrative about a ‘utopia’ obscures how life is actually lived, and what it means to be a human being there,” Meehan says.

Silicon Valley is a microcosm of the broader inequality that divides the nation, according to Meehan. The effects are felt not just economically but socially. “People are living right next to each other and they don’t interact,” she says.

To counter this separation, the photographer created portraits that encourage viewers to go beyond stereotypes to see the people who make up this amorphous place known as Silicon Valley. The result is a book of images that speaks to the human toll exacted by the relentless economy. 

This latest effort follows a series of Meehan’s community portrait projects in Massachusetts, Georgia, and Rhode Island. “I’m interested in all the ways that we see each other incorrectly, and how photography can push against that,” she says.  

Mary Beth Meehan’s photos dissolve distances between people

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Silicon Valley exerts a magnetism like a tractor beam on people from around the world. They come to the San Francisco Bay Area seeking riches, or at least the trickle down from the booming high-tech economy led by Apple, Alphabet (owner of Google), and Facebook.

The reality, as photographer Mary Beth Meehan depicts in the book “Seeing Silicon Valley: Life Inside a Fraying America,” is strikingly different. Yes, tech companies have created thousands of jobs, she says in an interview, “but the dominant narrative about a ‘utopia’ obscures how life is actually lived, and what it means to be a human being there.” The gap between the ultra-wealthy and ordinary workers – who cannot afford housing and basic necessities even with decent-paying jobs – is widening.     

Silicon Valley is a microcosm of the broader inequality that divides the nation, according to Meehan. The effects are felt not just economically but socially. “People are living right next to each other and they don’t interact,” she says. To counter this sense of separation, the photographer created portraits that encourage readers to go beyond stereotypes to see the people who make up this amorphous place known as Silicon Valley. The result is a book of images that speaks to the human toll exacted by the relentless economy. 

Alfredo Sosa/Staff
Mary Beth Meehan stands in front of one of her mural-sized photographs at the WaterFire Arts Center in Providence, Rhode Island, in August.

The project began with an invitation from Stanford University professor Fred Turner, who brought Meehan to the university with the idea of using photography to go beneath the “streets of gold” myth. Her photographs would help answer questions such as: Who lives in the area? What are the conditions in which they live?   

It’s not the first time that Meehan has created portraits of individuals in a specific community; her past projects include Brockton, Massachusetts; Newnan, Georgia; and her now-hometown of Providence, Rhode Island. The process she developed in those cities set the template for her work in Silicon Valley. In each of those projects, she spent time getting to know the area. She went out with her camera and knocked on doors, visited houses of worship, and talked with people on the street and in their homes. 

Meehan’s approach involves capturing people from a cross section of a city’s demographics. “Each individual is her- or himself, but they also represent a community, a whole ecosystem,” she says. Some of her photographs of Newnan and Providence eventually became large-scale  banners, the biggest measuring 38 feet wide, that were displayed on public buildings in those cities, furthering dialogues within the communities. 

Mary Beth Meehan
A U.S. Army veteran, Cristobal works full time as a security officer at Facebook. He earns $21 per hour, but he can’t afford a home in Silicon Valley. He lives in a backyard shed in Mountain View.

Meehan, who grew up in a working-class family with immigrant Irish and Italian roots, has made it her lifework to help spark conversations among people of different racial, class, and cultural backgrounds. The essence of her approach is simple but far from easy: “Just go talk to people.” 

She’s aware that her background as a well-educated white woman might raise questions in some communities that have been historically misunderstood and misrepresented in the media. “I’m interested in all the ways that we see each other incorrectly, and how photography can push against that,” she says.   

The people in these neighborhoods are far more accustomed to journalists and researchers who have already formed a judgment about the situation before they even ask their first question. Meehan takes a different approach: “Let’s let the people, who are the experts on their own lives, tell us.”  

Mary Beth Meehan
Ravi and Gouthami work as pharmaceutical-technology engineers. They would like to make a home and start a family, but with the high cost of housing – their one-bedroom apartment costs $3,000 a month – they are not sure they can afford to stay.

Meehan has wrestled with photography’s history as a tool of exploitation, in which people with money and access have had the power to shape the dominant narrative. She’s come to the conclusion that the practice of photography needs to be rebuilt in a way that “doesn’t reinscribe the old ruptures.” The answer, she says, is developing deeper collaborations. For her, this means mentoring everyone from schoolchildren to older adults from diverse backgrounds as they find their own paths to self-
expression through photography. 

When she makes portraits, Meehan collaborates with individuals to decide where and how they will be photographed, and what they’ll be wearing. Her skill is seen in the deliberateness with which she frames and edits the picture. 

By highlighting the humanity of each person, Meehan hopes to bring out the viewer’s humanity. This is especially important in a place like Silicon Valley, she says, where the wealthy may not really see the people who clean, cook, and care for them and their families. It’s a place where immigrants arrive seeking the American dream, only to end up struggling to find a foothold. 

“Each project is pushing against a big system,” she says. “In Silicon Valley, it’s the myth that the economy there is floating all boats.” Why, she argues, can’t some of that enormous wealth go into creating healthy lives for the people there? “That’s the question we’re really asking, and what does that say about the American economy?” 

Mary Beth Meehan

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A light of liberation for Libya

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A year ago, Libya was a failed state, split by warring factions serving as pawns in a proxy war between Turkey and Russia. The country, liberated from a dictator a decade ago during the Arab Spring, had descended into violent chaos, much like that in Syria and Yemen. National reconciliation seemed like a desert mirage.

Yet on Oct. 5, a major construction and building trade fair opened in the capital, Tripoli. Hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of attendees from around the world gathered in anticipation of the North African state becoming stable enough for mass investment. The day before, the country’s new unity government said construction had started on an oil refinery. These were signs that the stigma of a failed state is lifting after a Jan. 12 cease-fire between major warring parties.

What’s changed for Libya is that a peace process shepherded by the United Nations and a few European leaders has begun to take hold. Reconciliation among Libya’s 20 major tribal lines and between rival leaders in the east and west is still far off. But the pieces of peace are falling into place.

A light of liberation for Libya

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People walk in Martyrs' Square in Tripoli, Libya, Sept. 22

A year ago, Libya was a failed state, split by warring factions serving as pawns in a proxy war between Turkey and Russia. The country, liberated from a dictator a decade ago during the Arab Spring, had descended into violent chaos, much like that in Syria and Yemen. National reconciliation seemed like a desert mirage.

Yet on Oct. 5, a major construction and building trade fair opened in the capital, Tripoli. Hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of attendees from around the world gathered in anticipation of the North African state becoming stable enough for mass investment. The day before, the country’s new unity government said construction had started on an oil refinery. These were signs that the stigma of a failed state is lifting after a Jan. 12 cease-fire between major warring parties.

What’s changed for Libya is that a peace process shepherded by the United Nations and a few European leaders has begun to take hold. Reconciliation among Libya’s 20 major tribal lines and between rival leaders in the east and west is still far off. But the pieces of peace are falling into place. Libyan activists in civil society groups, who have championed a national identity based on equality, individual rights, and social inclusion, seem hopeful.

Two big hurdles remain. One is the holding of elections, slated for Dec. 24. The other is the withdrawal of thousands of foreign mercenaries and military personnel. The United States and Europe are pressing for both to take place. Germany has kept a steady hand on the process. And on Sept. 28, the U.S. Congress passed the Libya Stabilization Act, which calls for penalties on anyone who contributes to violence in Libya. In addition, leaders of Libya’s rival militaries met in Tripoli for the first time in the presence of U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, who leads the U.S. Africa Command.

The cease-fire has allowed Libyans to travel again between east and west, helping efforts at unity. National healing has also begun with the first U.N. report on serious human rights violations committed during the civil conflict. The report opens the way for an accountability that might prevent further violations.

Libya is far from being a model democratic state for the Arab world. But its steps toward reconciliation are setting an example for other trouble spots in the Middle East.

A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

Each weekday, the Monitor includes one clearly labeled religious article offering spiritual insight on contemporary issues, including the news. The publication – in its various forms – is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens. For many, that caring has religious roots. For many, it does not. The Monitor has always embraced both audiences. The Monitor is owned by a church – The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – whose founder was concerned with both the state of the world and the quality of available news.

No shortage in God’s ‘supply chain’

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Recognizing that God’s grace is universal, impartial, and inexhaustible affords the opportunity to prove step by step that chronic lack is not a given.

No shortage in God’s ‘supply chain’

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Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition

In many places in the world today, businesses are said to be running low on all kinds of goods and services. “You name it, and we have a shortage on it,” is how the CEO of one large United States manufacturer describes it (Brendan Murray, Enda Curran, Kim Chipman, “The World Economy is Suddenly Running Low on Everything,” www.bloomberg.com, May 17, 2021). He added that customers are trying to get everything they can now because they expect the shortages to extend into next year.

We can choose a very different, inexhaustible resource to double down on. And that’s prayer. Not a prayer that asks for things, but a spiritual understanding that challenges notions of limitation, including the notion that we’re sliding inevitably toward acute imbalance between supply and demand in the wake of the pandemic and that it will take time to replenish and recover.

Biblical accounts provide proofs that prayer can make a powerful, immediate difference – and my own experience has shown me this, too. One example of supply meeting demand a number of years ago was when our family unexpectedly had to move out of our home at a point when there was a critical shortage of affordable housing in our area. We were also in a financial position that appeared to restrict our options. But as we began our home search with prayer, we saw it was less about finding a house than about learning where our true security and supply lay – fully established in God’s, divine Love’s, enduring care.

We found encouragement in this promise from the Apostle Paul: “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). We took to heart this unshakable conviction that divine Love’s abundant provision is available to everyone through the eternal Christ, the healing nature and power of God.

Letting this prayer lead the way, we found a home that met our needs for many years. All the details of the purchase fell readily into place, including the full resolution of our financial shortfall.

Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, saw this spiritual fullness as continuous and reliable. She wrote, “God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies. Never ask for to-morrow: it is enough that divine Love is an ever-present help; and if you wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 307).

What are the “daily supplies” that spiritual ideas give us? Aren’t they the God-given intelligence, moral courage, and spiritual resilience that enable us to find practical answers to claims of lack and imbalance?

I have found that such qualities, inherent in each of us, come to light as I pray, because the spiritual ideas that give us these daily supplies comprise an understanding of God. Mrs. Eddy’s key text on Christian Science, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” states, “It is our ignorance of God, the divine Principle, which produces apparent discord, and the right understanding of Him restores harmony” (p. 390).

God is ever-present, completely spiritual Love. And Love sees us as its own children, made in God’s image, expressing the divine perfection. In proportion as we understand this, we can prove it. We can by degrees demonstrate abundance in the way most profoundly exemplified by Christ Jesus in feeding thousands of people with a minuscule amount of food (see John 6:5-13).

Jesus showed us that we can experience dominion over the flawed, matter-based assumptions that go along with shortages. Jesus looked beyond the limited, conventional thinking of the disciple who said of the five loaves and two fish at hand, “What are they among so many?” The result was that more food remained after everyone was fed than they’d had beforehand.

This narrative illustrates so vividly that true substance is spiritual and comes from God, who is Spirit itself – and that man in God’s image and likeness, fully and firmly established as God’s reflection, is abundantly blessed with the substance of Spirit. This substance, already present in all its fullness, nullifies the ingrained but mistaken opinion that material shortages can threaten or delay our ability to move forward from any challenge. Our understanding of this finds expression in the tangible proof that God’s inexhaustible nature supplies the ideas that, in turn, meet our human needs today.

Adapted from an editorial published in the Aug. 30, 2021, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

Viewfinder

Scrubbing the sand

Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP
Workers in protective suits clean oil-contaminated Huntington Beach in California on Oct. 5, 2021. An oil pipeline ruptured, spewing an estimated 144,000 gallons of crude into the Pacific. The leak created a 13-square-mile oil slick that spread into coastal wetlands, threatening wildlife.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte and Karen Norris. )

A look ahead

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

Thanks for joining us. Come back tomorrow: We’re working on a story about why allowing midwives to work in Afghanistan is now a key test of whether Taliban principles have evolved since they last ruled.

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