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Monitor Daily Podcast

November 22, 2021
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TODAY’S INTRO

Walking with Amal

What does it mean to have a real conversation?

That question has come to mind as I’ve watched the journey of Little Amal, which started in Turkey in July and concluded in England this month.

Little Amal is a puppet representing a 9-year-old refugee – albeit a larger-than-life puppet that stands 12 feet tall. Amal has garnered lots of attention as part of an art project aimed at “changing the conversation and bringing people together” around migration, where the most recent flashpoint is the border of Belarus and Poland.

Can you do that at a time of hard lines around complex issues?

“I can walk into any room in America and say that we need systems that keep all communities safe, that uphold the values of equal justice … and never get pushback,” Alan Jenkins, a Harvard Law School professor, recently told “On the Media.” “Then we all have to fight about, does the system currently uphold those.” But by making connections through fundamental values, “you already have brought people together in a way to work through how to achieve them.”

Amal evoked all sorts of responses as she walked, propelled by four handlers, nearly 5,000 miles: wide-eyed wonder, tears, shock, the desire to clasp her massive hands. People spoke about welcoming all refugees as well as tightening border controls. But extended exchanges I saw in online comments often moved toward ideas for progress, despite giving voice to significant differences. Maybe that was because it was hard to look at this “child” and not think about the security we all desire.

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‘Refund’ the police? With crime high, debate rises in Maryland.

The rhetoric about police funding can easily slip into extremes. But as the state of Maryland illustrates, there’s more agreement about what’s needed than the debate’s polarizing terms suggest.

Amelia
Brian Witte/AP/File
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, speaks at a news conference on Aug. 5, 2021, in Annapolis, Maryland. In October, he announced a $150-million plan to “refund the police,” two-thirds of which would go to police aid and salary and one-third to accountability programs, neighborhood safety, and victim services.

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A year after widespread calls to defund or abolish the police, those options are increasingly unpopular, and the focus is shifting to improving policing.

In Maryland, for example, the legislature, governor, and citizens in high-crime areas like Baltimore mostly agree that law enforcement can be reformed, and needs to be. 

This summer – over vetoes from the governor – the Maryland General Assembly passed bills that repealed the state’s police bill of rights, restricted no-knock warrants, raised the standard for use of force, required body cameras, and involved civilians in police oversight. Yet some of the state’s largest cities, including Baltimore, increased their police budgets. 

The spending and new standards may seem contradictory, but police reform isn’t a binary. Police budgets are more complicated than terms like “refund” or “defund” suggest. 

“I think that adequate funding is a prerequisite to quality policing,” says Stephen Rushin, a law professor at Loyola University Chicago. “We just need to make sure that that money is being spent not just on things like officers’ salary and equipment, but is also being spent in part on accountability.” 

‘Refund’ the police? With crime high, debate rises in Maryland.

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Donzo Monk has no love for the police. 

He’s spent his entire life in Baltimore and says he has learned to expect corruption in local politics and law enforcement. Four years ago, he finished a 10-year prison sentence for selling drugs – a charge he denies. An officer found drugs on him, he admits, but he says he wasn’t selling and the search violated his privacy.

But Mr. Monk doesn’t want fewer police. He wants better police. 

“I don’t believe that they should totally defund the police because we do need law and order,” he says. “Without law and order, we have chaos and anarchy.”

On this issue, Mr. Monk – a Black man from one of America’s most liberal cities – agrees with his white Republican governor. In October, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced $150 million to “refund the police.” Around two-thirds of the money would go to police aid and salary. Another one-third would fund accountability programs, neighborhood safety, and victim services. 

The plan almost certainly won’t pass the state’s heavily Democratic General Assembly. But, oddly enough, it communicates some consensus. A year after widespread calls to defund or abolish the police, those options are increasingly unpopular. In Maryland, the legislature, governor, and citizens in high-crime areas like Baltimore mostly agree that law enforcement can be reformed, and needs to be. 

That’s true across the country, says University of Nebraska Omaha Professor Emeritus Sam Walker. Police reform and police spending aren’t part of a zero-sum game. 

“If Governor Hogan is talking about refunding police, then money becomes the leverage for doing things differently, and I think that’s an important strategic lever to change things,” says Dr. Walker. “I don’t think you have to go through the defund part to say that we want to create a modern and progressive police department that’s going to handle routine problems in a better way.”

In some ways, Maryland has become a national case study on where to start. This summer – over vetoes from the governor – the General Assembly passed bills that repealed the state’s police bill of rights, restricted no-knock warrants, raised the standard for use of force, required body cameras, and involved civilians in police oversight. Meanwhile some of the state’s largest cities, including Baltimore, increased their police budgets. 

The spending and new standards may seem contradictory, but police reform isn’t a binary. In some areas, research suggests spending more on law enforcement could improve public safety and reduce police violence. In others, spending on social programs would help more. Police budgets are more complicated than terms like “refund” or “defund” suggest. 

Uneven police funding

There are around 18,000 police departments in the United States, and about half of them have 10 or fewer officers. By contrast, the largest, in New York City, has roughly 36,000. 

Almost all funding for law enforcement comes from local sales and property taxes. That means two things: There are huge gaps in funding between counties, and the areas with the most crime often have the least money to spend on police. When budgets are tight, that can create a cascade of higher crime and worse policing.

Even though most funding is local, state and federal governments contribute through aid and grant programs. It’s a complex knot to untangle. It’s also a reminder that American police budgets are too complicated for a one-size-fits-all solution, says Loyola University Chicago School of Law Professor Stephen Rushin.

“I think that adequate funding is a prerequisite to quality policing,” says Dr. Rushin. “We just need to make sure that that money is being spent not just on things like officers’ salary and equipment, but is also being spent in part on accountability.” 

Cheye Calvo, former 11-year mayor of small Berwyn Heights, Maryland, spent years advocating for police reform after officers, acting on poor intel, botched a no-knock raid on his home. That experience didn’t change his opinion on their budget. 

“As a mayor, I was constantly at the legislature, lobbying for highway user monies and police aid,” says Mr. Calvo. “Those are probably the two most regular lobbying things we had to do as a group because funding is a real issue in Maryland.” 

Steve Ruark/AP
Baltimore city police instructor Mike Long (left) demonstrates a technique with police trainee Alhaji Fofana of Philadelphia, during defense tactic training on Aug. 4, 2021, in Baltimore. Baltimore's police force is struggling to meet staffing targets to comply with a reform intervention in place as part of federal oversight.

The view from Baltimore 

The environment is much different just 30 miles away in Baltimore. Per capita, the city spends a similar amount on police as Washington, the closest major city. But because Baltimore’s tax base is so much smaller, law enforcement takes up much more of its total budget.

There’s been a huge increase in violent crime during the pandemic, and cities such as Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York have responded with higher funding. Baltimore has as well, with a net $6 million increase in the past year. In a city with some of the state’s worst schools and some of the country’s worst public transit, spending more on police can be difficult to stomach.

“In Baltimore City, it’s hard to digest ‘refund’ when we’ve never taken anything away,” says Ray Kelly, executive director of the Citizens Policing Project and a lifelong Baltimore resident.

Mr. Kelly is part of a team that monitors Baltimore’s Consent Decree, a 2017 agreement with the federal government to reform the police department after the Department of Justice found officers abused citizen’s First and Fourth Amendment rights. Among other things, the decree calls for more civilian oversight, community policing, and higher officer accountability.

Those programs can be expensive – hence the governor’s “refund the police” plan.

“Almost everyone was expressing the same concerns: that they were having difficulty recruiting police officers, that they were having difficulty retaining police officers, and that they didn’t have funding to do a lot of the things that they wanted to do to improve policing,” says Governor Hogan, in an interview with the Monitor. On the right and the left, he says, almost everyone wants police reform.

Public opinion on the issue is confusing and sometimes contradictory. In a Goucher College poll last October, 79% of Maryland residents supported “increasing funding for police departments to hire more or better trained officers” and 54% supported “reducing the budget for the police department in their community and shifting the funds to social programs related to mental health, housing, and education.” 

But Mr. Hogan says that debate doesn’t necessarily have to be an either-or. “I’m for funding all of those things.”

Not all Marylanders believe that. 

Money alone won’t solve the problem

More than six years ago, the governor canceled a massive project to expand public transportation in some of Baltimore’s poorest neighborhoods. The city’s mental health and addiction recovery programs still receive a tiny share of the police budget, says Mr. Kelly. In his view, the police budget is a “moral document.” Spending shows priorities; press releases don’t.

“I think the whole refund rhetoric is pure stagecraft,” says Maryland state Del. David Moon, a Democrat from the Washington suburbs of Montgomery County. “There hasn’t been any defunding in Maryland or its localities.” 

Even if there had been, says Mr. Calvo, the former mayor, the state’s problems with policing were never just about funding. Maryland once had some of the nation’s most police-friendly laws, he says, and those often closed the door on reform. The General Assembly’s extensive police bills from earlier this year were a first step, in his eyes. Careful police funding can be a second.

“The more important part is what they do with the funding,” says Peter Moskos, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City and former Baltimore police officer.

Money is important, says Dr. Moskos, but leadership and strategy matter much more. In his opinion, both are still big problems in Baltimore. Until they improve, he doesn’t expect much to change – funding or not. 

Neither do residents like Mr. Monk, speaking to the Monitor outside a train station on his way to work. Baltimore’s problems with crime and policing are like the city’s problems with poverty or racism, he says. They’re fundamental, and fixing them feels unrealistic.

Mr. Monk’s wife, standing next to him, nods in agreement. The police budget, he says, should probably stay the same. The city needs better social services, better education, more opportunities for young people who feel like crime is their only option. At the same time, Baltimore needs officers who aren’t corrupt, who have better training, who actually live in the city. 

He rises to catch the train, wearing a black Ravens cap and Nike Air Maxes. 

“We need better police, that’s all,” says Mr. Monk.

Noah Robertson reported from Baltimore. Patrik Jonsson reported form Tybee Island, Georgia.

Russian human rights group under threat. What soured the Kremlin?

The human rights group Memorial has been essential to giving Russia a cleareyed view of its Soviet past. But that no longer suits the agenda of the Kremlin, which now sees no place for criticism of the state, past or present.

Amelia
Ilya Naymushin/Reuters/File
A vessel carries hundreds of candles to be released on the water to commemorate the victims of Soviet repression in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, Oct. 30, 2006. The action was organized by the human rights group Memorial, which was long a partner of the Kremlin but is now at risk of being shut down in a Kremlin crackdown.

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Over the past year many groups and political activists formerly tolerated by Russian authorities have suddenly found themselves under attack. Even the country’s biggest permitted opposition group, the Communist Party, has found its activists arrested for attempting to protest alleged vote-rigging in recent elections.

And now human rights organization Memorial may be next. The internationally respected group, which often worked together with Russian authorities to document the repressions of the Stalin era, could be shut down if the Supreme Court of Russia rules against it Nov. 25 for allegedly violating Russia’s vague “foreign agent” laws.

Those laws require all published materials and social media posts to contain a lengthy disclaimer alerting readers that the material “fulfills the function of a foreign agent,” because the organization receives foreign funding while engaging in what authorities deem political activity. The organization has been trying to comply with the requirements of the law, even while protesting that it should not apply to Memorial. But authorities have gone after cases where the disclaimer was inadvertently omitted.

“We understand that this is a political case,” says Tatiana Glushkova, a lawyer for Memorial. “Memorial isn’t being threatened with closure because it’s breaking the law. It’s because it criticizes the government.”

Russian human rights group under threat. What soured the Kremlin?

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Russia’s most venerable and internationally respected human rights organization, Memorial, has deep roots within Russian society.

It was founded in the Soviet Union more than three decades ago by dissident Andrei Sakharov – with Kremlin approval – to repair the historical record and stimulate the national conscience. It has often worked together with Russian authorities to unearth and document the murderous repression of the Stalin era.

Even Vladimir Putin has supported major projects to memorialize the victims.

So it was unthinkable even a few months ago that the organization could be threatened with forcible shutdown at the hands of Russian authorities. But that is where it stands now.

If the Supreme Court rules against it Nov. 25 for allegedly violating Russia’s intricate and often vague “foreign agent” laws, the country’s once hopeful civil society growth may stall without one of its main cornerstones, as an official campaign to silence independent voices gathers steam.

Over the past year many groups and political activists formerly tolerated by authorities have suddenly found themselves under attack. Anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny was allegedly poisoned by Russian secret services, arrested upon his return to Russia, and saw all his support groups shut down as “extremist.” Independent media have been branded as “foreign agents” and forced into a struggle for survival. Even Russia’s biggest permitted opposition group, the Communist Party, has found itself under legal assault and its activists arrested for attempting to protest alleged vote-rigging in recent elections.

And now Memorial may be next, despite an outpouring of public support in recent days – not only from the human rights community, but also open appeals by major figures like former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and petitions with tens of thousands of signatures – calling on authorities to reverse a prosecutor’s demand earlier this month that Memorial be liquidated.

“If someone fell asleep in September 2020 and just woke up today, they would not recognize our civil society landscape,” says Tatiana Glushkova, a lawyer for Memorial. “That’s how badly, and rapidly, the situation has deteriorated.”

“This is a political case”

Memorial’s sister organization, Memorial Human Rights Center, is also facing closure. It applies the lessons of history to call out contemporary abuses and identify political prisoners – who currently number almost 500, more than any time since the USSR’s collapse, according to the group.

Both organizations are accused of failing to observe the terms of the “foreign agent” laws over the past five years. Those laws require all published materials and social media posts to contain a lengthy disclaimer alerting readers that the material “fulfills the function of a foreign agent,” because the organization receives foreign funding while engaging in what authorities deem to be political activity.

According to Ms. Glushkova, Memorial had been trying very hard to comply with the requirements of the law since it was imposed, even while protesting that it should not apply to the organization. But authorities have gone after cases where the disclaimer was inadvertently omitted as well as social media posts where a person using material did not know it was required.

“The labeling laws are very unclear,” she says. “You have to put this label on everything you publish, even business cards and social media posts.”

She gives the illustration of a recent book fair where Memorial was selling its publications to the public. Those published after 2016 had the disclaimer printed in the required way but older ones, obviously, did not. So whenever someone would buy one of those books, the vendor would use a rubber stamp to apply the disclaimer, while explaining the reason to the buyer. But authorities have declared the inventory of older, unstamped books to be in violation of the law. That, says Ms. Glushkova, is one of the main examples being brought in the case against the organization.

“Our understanding is that authorities want to shut down both Memorial organizations,” says Ms. Glushkova. “We understand that this is a political case. Memorial isn’t being threatened with closure because it’s breaking the law. It’s because it criticizes the government. When you are working on a political case like this, you know the outcome doesn’t depend on your [legal] arguments, but other factors. ... Unfortunately, we don’t have support inside the government.”

“They don’t like the way Memorial does it”

Experts say that Memorial has been swimming against the tide of public indifference for a long time. In the late Soviet period, stimulated by Mr. Gorbachev’s glasnost policies, the ugliest sides of the USSR’s history were brought to light, public opinion was deeply shocked, and Memorial was born with official support to continue unraveling the horrors of the past.

But “since the 1990s, this cause of [exposing and documenting the crimes of Stalin] has gone out of fashion,” says Lyubov Borusyak, a sociologist and researcher with Moscow State Pedagogical University. “Maybe half the population knew that Stalin was an executioner, but the majority gradually preferred to see him as the winner of the war. ...

“In this context, Memorial looked increasingly to people as an organization that wanted to concentrate on the bad sides of Soviet history, while people wanted to forget that and embrace sweet dreams about the past. ... For Russian liberals, Memorial is a symbol. It embodies one of the last strongholds of the struggle for historical truth. And they fear not just for Memorial, but for what may happen to themselves in future.”

It’s not clear why Russian authorities have turned on Memorial after decades of coexisting with it. Most experts see it as part of an accelerating campaign to close down any space for independent political action or criticism amid deepening antagonism with the West, a stagnating economy, and uncertainties about the continuing stability of Mr. Putin’s regime.

Sergei Markov, a former Putin adviser, says that the West has fought a hybrid war against Russia for the past several years, mobilizing politically active nongovernmental organizations to undermine the government. He says Memorial did great work in the past, but it is now a liberal bastion whose publications openly vilify Mr. Putin and whose human rights wing champions the cause of terrorists and other extremists and refuses to condemn human rights violations in other places, like Ukraine and the Baltic states.

“Memorial is a former human rights organization that is now part of the anti-Putin coalition,” he says. “Russian authorities believe that it works with Western intelligence agencies to undermine Russia. The question is not why it’s being brought to justice now, but why not years ago?”

Masha Lipman, senior associate at the PONARS Eurasia program at George Washington University, says the hybrid-war idea is being used by Russian authorities to crush all critical voices across the political spectrum.

“We have reached a point of chronic confrontation in relations with the West. If we look at how we got here, I think we’ll agree that both sides are to blame,” she says. “But for Russian authorities today, any perceived disloyalty – and that includes a broad range of non-state activities that authorities deem undesirable – are all-too-easily branded as ‘agents of the West.’ ...

“It isn’t that the government opposes mourning the victims of Stalin’s repressions, it’s that they don’t like the way Memorial does it. It is seen as disloyal. From the state’s point of view, it’s OK to grieve the victims, but not to question the system of authority that led to the repressions, or to assign blame to the perpetrators, as Memorial seeks to do,” she says. “I look at this pressure on Memorial as part of a general line of stepped-up repressions that is picking up speed.”

Climate change is expensive. How should the world pay to fight it?

The whole world is heating up. So who should pay for that? That fundamental question of fairness lies at the heart of countries’ wrangling over justice and climate change.

Amelia

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If one thing became clear at the COP26 gathering of world leaders this month, it’s that tackling climate change is going to be expensive.

Making the leap to decarbonized energy is pricey. So is adapting to a warming planet that unleashes more wildfires, storms, and heat waves. Meanwhile, many communities already bearing the brunt of climate disasters are among those least equipped to foot the bill. 

All of this means that “climate finance,” the money needed to both fight climate change and try to adjust to it, is increasingly taking the spotlight. Under that glare, it is revealing the underlying global inequities that make collective climate action so challenging. 

At the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, delegates grappled with the responsibility of – and broken promises by – wealthy nations to fund climate action around the globe. But attention also turned to private financiers, including a new alliance of more than 450 insurers, banks, and asset managers with around $130 trillion in capital. All are committed to canceling out all the carbon emissions in their portfolios by midcentury, after first making major reductions in emissions by 2030.

But lower- and middle-income countries remain skeptical that private finance will solve their crises. They are urging a reevaluation of how the world will pay to protect its most vulnerable citizens.  

Climate change is expensive. How should the world pay to fight it?

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Alberto Pezzali/AP
Delegates gather in the Action Zone at the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 11, 2021.

If one thing became clear at the COP26 gathering of world leaders this month, it’s that tackling climate change is going to be expensive.

Making the leap to decarbonized energy is pricey. So, too, is adapting to a warming planet that unleashes more deadly wildfires, storms, and heat waves. Meanwhile, many of the communities already bearing the brunt of climate disasters are among those least equipped to foot the bill. 

All of this means that “climate finance,” the money needed to both fight climate change and try to adjust to it, is increasingly taking the spotlight. And under that glare, it is revealing the underlying global inequities that make collective climate action so challenging. 

At the United Nations climate change conference here, delegates from Africa, Asia, and Latin America chided wealthy countries for not fulfilling a promise to drum up $100 billion a year for climate-related projects. Developed countries had agreed to that payment plan at another U.N. summit in 2009, an acknowledgment that they were disproportionately responsible for the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. By 2019, they were still $20 billion behind. At the conference this year, delegates from developing countries said this parsimony had undermined their trust in the U.N. process. 

Here’s the thing: Even $100 billion isn’t a big number when it comes to climate change. Not when you add up what it would take to climate-proof the world in the next few decades while also cutting emissions as fast as possible. 

“The $100 billion, quite frankly, pales in comparison to the actual needs,” says Iskander Erzini Vernoit, a policy adviser at E3G, an environmental think tank in London. “And I think COP26 has been useful for establishing that recognition.” 

Trillions, not billions

Indeed, the summit made clear that transforming how the world is powered, built, and managed – from building offshore wind farms and smart grids to installing storm barriers and preserving mangrove forests – will require trillions, not billions, of dollars in new investments. By 2030, the energy sector alone would likely need $4 trillion annually to put carbon emissions on track to reach net-zero by midcentury, according to the International Energy Agency. 

Government spending by itself won’t pay for this transition. So attention in Glasgow turned to private financiers, including a new alliance of more than 450 insurers, banks, and asset managers with around $130 trillion in capital. All are committed to canceling out the carbon emissions in their portfolios by midcentury, after first making major reductions by 2030.

The details are fuzzy about how, exactly, the financial institutions will measure this “net-zero” approach to assets, or how quickly they will move away from fossil fuels. But the alliance, and other commitments within the financial sector, are a step in the right direction, says Yannick Glemarec, executive director of the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund (GCF), which was set up to provide money for developing countries. 

Alastair Grant/AP
Delegates convene in a room as discussions continue at the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 12, 2021. The question of who is going to finance adaption for climate change and pay for climate disasters remains a thorny one.

“If we want to finance climate [action] at scale to avert catastrophic climate change, all the pieces have to come together,” he says. 

The GCF has committed $10 billion in grants and loans since 2015, when countries signed agreements at the last big international climate summit, held in Paris. 

But he is hopeful that the fund can start to ramp up programs now that the United States and other donors have pledged more funding. He sees the fund’s role as helping to mobilize private capital – those needed trillions of dollars – by investing in projects that private financiers might deem too unpredictable, such as a solar energy plant in an emerging African market. The goal is to get those projects off the ground and show that they are commercially viable, which, he says, can prompt private investment.

“Once you have a commercial track record you’re not speaking about uncertainty. You’re speaking about risk. Bankers cannot deal with uncertainty. They can deal with, and price, risk,” he says.   

But who pays for adaptation? 

The catch for developing countries, though, is that while investors may be keen on green technology, which both cuts emissions and makes profits, it’s harder to raise private capital for what’s called adaptation. Those are the storm barriers and fortified buildings and drought-resistant crops and other efforts communities will increasingly need as the planet warms. Lower income countries, many of which are facing the most extreme risks from climate change, may struggle to finance these crucial investments. 

And that, delegates at COP26 pointed out, could exacerbate global inequities, even as diplomats talk about increased worldwide financing.

“We need to ensure the developing world isn’t left behind by their unequal access to global capital,” says Mr. Vernoit, who previously served as a U.N. climate negotiator for Morocco. 

In the corridors of Glasgow, negotiators from low- and middle-income countries seemed skeptical that private capital could pick up the slack left by rich donors that had missed their aid targets. 

“Adaptation is public goods, and the private sector is not very interested,” says Mizan Khan, a delegate from Bangladesh.

But neither, worry many lower income countries, are wealthy nations.

In his speech in Glasgow, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said developed countries should provide $1 trillion in climate finance “at the earliest” and said their commitments should be tracked, just as scientists track carbon emissions. “The proper justice would be that the countries which do not live up to their promises made on climate finance, pressure should be put on them,” he said. 

The COP26 agreement, signed last Saturday, urged a doubling of public financing for climate adaptation by 2025, compared to the $20 billion provided in 2019 – itself a fraction of the pledged climate aid. But wealthy countries resisted additional commitments to compensate lower-income countries for climate-related losses. 

Developing countries already face wrenching choices about how to decarbonize, such as whether to take money from health or education and put it to clean energy, says Harjeet Singh, a Delhi-based senior adviser to Climate Action Network International, a campaign group. The backtracking by donors creates a political dilemma on top of this – and threatens collective climate action overall. 

“If they don’t get enough confidence about where the money will come from, why would they change a paradigm?” he asks. 

“We don’t know how to access the trillions”

Professor Khan and other delegates complained that money from GCF and other multilateral lenders took too long to arrive, was often in the form of loans and not grants, and rarely went to front-line communities impacted by climate change. (Mr. Glemarec said GCF had sped up its review process to take a year, down from more than two previously.)  

Diego Pacheco Balanza, Bolivia’s chief negotiator, said Bolivia has been trying to conserve its carbon-rich forests and improve their management, working with Indigenous groups, but that it couldn’t get GCF to fund its programs. “Forests are under a lot of pressure. ... We need to have good incentives in order to avoid the degradation of the forests,” he says. 

As for private capital, “we don’t know how to access the trillions of dollars that are outside” formal aid channels, Mr. Pacheco says. 

In reality, if financial institutions do redirect trillions of dollars into net-zero assets, only a fraction would be allocated to investments in developing countries, given the perceived risk. But that fraction matters when it comes to climate financing, since the global pool of savings is so large.

Mr. Glemarec reckons that building climate-resilient infrastructure in the global south can be an investment opportunity, provided GCF or other government-backed lenders go first. He’s also set up a $500 million private equity fund for coral reef protection, sustainable tourism, and fishing in 16 countries in Africa, Latin America, Asia-Pacific, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean. GCF has committed $125 million. 

“We are the first to lose our money if it goes wrong. But if it goes right, this $500 million of equity might finance anywhere between $2.5 to $5 trillion of actual investment,” he says. If so, he adds, “we will have demonstrated that investing in the protection of a coral reef is a legitimate investment for a pension fund or a bank.”

Still, he agrees that some climate adaptation projects in low-income and indebted countries simply won’t make the grade. “Some of these needs will have to be financed with public money because there is no business model,” he says.

   

Points of Progress

What's going right

Can courts be compassionate, in crime prevention and punishment?

In our progress roundup, courts wield power in attempts to both right history and prevent future harm. We’re also reporting on some energy-saving initiatives.

Amelia

Can courts be compassionate, in crime prevention and punishment?

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Most states with red flag laws passed them after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Advocates say the effectiveness of the laws would increase if more authorities and the public knew how to use them.  

1. United States

Red flag laws are saving lives throughout the U.S. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia now allow courts to temporarily seize firearms to prevent deadly violence. These measures – also known as extreme risk protection orders – make it possible to act on early warning signs and avoid gun deaths, typically keeping guns away from a person at risk for committing violence for up to a year. In five states, petitions must be filed by law enforcement, while other states also allow family members, health care providers, co-workers, and school officials to submit a request. Petitioners must offer substantial evidence to meet legal requirements.

Despite criticism from some gun rights activists, the tool has garnered wide support among law enforcement, health care professionals, and lawmakers. Colorado Sheriff Tony Spurlock, a Republican and staunch Second Amendment supporter, says the law is saving lives in his community, but is underutilized. Now, in Colorado and elsewhere, leaders are allocating funds to educate the police and public about these laws and address knowledge gaps. Mr. Spurlock’s office has released podcasts and Facebook videos to help residents understand the petition process. In Florida, Fort Lauderdale Detective Christopher Carita is helping teach fellow officers best practices for using the state’s red flag law. “This is about having a tool that gives someone assurance that the ultimate goal is not to hurt them or lock them up,” he said. “It’s to save their life or prevent them from doing something they can’t undo.”
Stateline, Colorado Attorney General

2. Brazil

ADRIANO MACHADO/REUTERS/FILE
A member of the Krenak ethnic group participates in a 2019 demonstration in Brasília in defense of local Indigenous people.

A Brazilian federal court has condemned the government for the abuse, imprisonment, and displacement of the Krenak Indigenous people. More than 8,350 Indigenous people were killed during the country’s 1964-85 military dictatorship, while many others were tortured or lost land. The southeastern state of Minas Gerais, where the regime set up concentration camps known as the Krenak Reformatory and Guarani Farm, was the site of some of the worst abuses. Forced labor and torture were commonplace, say advocates for native tribes, with cruel and arbitrary punishments doled out for behaviors like speaking the Krenak language or loitering.

Decades later, a court has found the federal government, state government, and national Indigenous affairs agency guilty of human rights violations. Judge Anna Cristina Rocha Gonçalves ordered the government to organize an official apology ceremony, deliver reparations, and take measures to rehabilitate the Krenak culture and language. Brazil’s current president is known for his far-right, anti-Indigenous policies, making many uncertain if his administration will follow through with the court’s demands. Still, Indigenous leaders and supporters have celebrated the decision. “Justice, however slow, is being served,” said Indigenous chief Geovani Krenak. “The decision gives us hope. ... We know what is ours by right and what we suffered, but it will be a message for the rest of society that they should not give up fighting.”
Mongabay

3. France

Retrofitted public housing buildings in Paris offer insights on how cities can merge housing and climate goals. The waiting list for affordable housing – much of which was built in the 1930s and has seen rapid decay in recent years – has grown as surging private rents push tenants out. Meanwhile, the city’s climate plan calls for residential buildings to achieve 60% energy savings by 2030. Public housing agencies, with their mix of public and private capital, have been making public buildings more livable and sustainable for more than a decade through comprehensive remodeling campaigns.

The agency Immobilière 3F, for example, began upgrading buildings in 2015, starting with insulation and ultimately spending less than $50,000 per unit. Residents’ energy bills have since dropped 47%. The city’s main public housing agency, Paris Habitat, started a $42 million overhaul of the 500-unit Marcadet building last year. By 2024, the group aims to replace windows, elevators, and doors, and install new ventilation systems and natural cork insulation. This comes after more than two years of consulting with tenants, a critical step in getting buy-in and creating a plan for housing displaced residents during renovations. Experts say these Paris projects could serve as a guide for U.S. cities such as New York, where authorities face challenges of building trust with tenants, reducing a backlog of repairs, and updating neglected and inefficient structures.
Grist

4. Africa

Digital tools are boosting production for small farmers throughout Africa. Nearly 85% of farming families around the world own less than 5 acres of land each, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, and these families are responsible for about a third of the world’s food supply. But the smaller the farm, the harder it can be to access credit and insurance, reach new markets, and utilize mechanization and precision farming. At the same time, experts say global food production needs to grow dramatically to feed rising populations. Aloysius Uche Ordu, director of the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, says digital technologies “are eliminating the traditional inefficiencies of smallholder food production and helping to close the yield gap.”

NJERI MWANGI/REUTERS/FILE
The mobile app Hello Tractor records the movements of a rental tractor in Umande village in Nanyuki, Kenya.

A 2020 report found there are more than 400 digital tools used to help address agriculture issues in sub-Saharan Africa. These include the app Hello Tractor, which allows smallholders to rent tractors at an affordable rate. DigiFarm in Kenya facilitates access to lower-cost supplies and potential buyers without an intermediary; Nigerian startup Zenvus analyzes soil data and advises farmers on the best fertilizing and irrigation methods. With women slightly less likely to own a cellphone and internet penetration at about 26%, researchers say that there’s a need for improved infrastructure and digital literacy for farmers to fully benefit.
Thomson Reuters Foundation, FAO

World

Scientists have developed a technique for extracting precious and heavy metals from electronic waste. The mining of metals such as rhodium, copper, and gold for consumer electronics has been linked to health issues, environmental pollution, and war. Most discarded devices end up in landfills; only 20% of hazardous electronic waste around the world is recycled. But a new method of “urban mining” improves upon traditional leaching and smelting recovery of these materials.

The process, pioneered by the lab of Rice University chemist James Tour, uses a jolt of electricity to instantly heat e-waste to 5,660 degrees Fahrenheit, vaporizing the precious metals. The gases are then separated into a cold trap, where they condense into solid form. According to the team’s research, which was recently published in Nature Communications, the flash heating process uses 80 times less energy than typical commercial smelting and 500 times less than tube furnaces available in laboratories. “We found a way to get the precious metals back and turn e-waste into a sustainable resource,” said Dr. Tour.
The Independent, Rice University, Electronics TakeBack Coalition

Books

November’s shorter days make reading all the sweeter

The 10 picks for this month celebrate individuals charting their own paths, from a Muslim and a Christian who fall in love in sectarian-torn Cyprus, to a U.S. secretary of state battling terrorists and a memoir by renowned Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei.

Amelia

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Americans gather this week to mark Thanksgiving in diverse ways – sharing a meal with family and friends, volunteering to serve holiday dinners to those in need, participating in 5K races, taking a quiet walk, and curling up with a good book. While we can’t cook your turkey for you, we can offer a delightful mix of books to explore and share. 

These verses from the poem “Thanksgiving Turkey,” by George Parsons Lathrop (1851-98), capture the spirit of the season:

Fetch a log, then; coax the ember;
   Fill your hearts with old-time cheer;
   Heaven be thanked for one more year,
          And our Thanksgiving turkey!

November’s shorter days make reading all the sweeter

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Bloomsbury Publishing/Crown

Our reviewers’ selections include a collection of essays by beloved novelist Ann Patchett, a ground-breaking biography on Picasso, and the history of the American Transcendentalist movement in the 19th century.

1. The Island of Missing Trees

by Elif Shafak

Cyprus, 1974. Tensions between the island’s Greek and Turkish communities are at a boil, as Kostas, a Christian, and Defne, a Muslim, fall in love. Their poignant story, told in part from a watchful fig tree’s perspective, blends facts about Cyprus with moving reflections on the toll of civil war, the challenges of being uprooted, and the interconnectedness of all life.

2. State of Terror

by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny

Well-crafted and engrossing, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny’s jointly written political thriller delivers wise commentary on power, partnership, and trust. (Full review here.)

Scribner

3. Look for Me and I’ll Be Gone

by John Edgar Wideman

How does one capture the vastness of Black life in America? In his sixth collection, author and essayist John Edgar Wideman continues to use the short-story form to paint a powerful, faceted reflection of Black history and culture. Both joyous and haunting, Wideman’s book deftly weaves together the past, present, and future.

4. The Bad Immigrant

by Sefi Atta

A modern-day Nigerian family wins the visa lottery to pursue their American dreams. Sefi Atta’s layered novel examines the culture clash faced by migrants trying to assimilate while still preserving their identities. Atta’s intelligent, unfiltered, satirical storytelling is compelling and compassionate.

5. White on White

by Ayşegül Savaş

The author, a Turkish writer living in Paris, has produced an elegantly stark character study of Agnes, a painter. As Agnes shares stories of her life – as well as her artistic ideas – with an unnamed postgraduate student who narrates the book, her path becomes a haunting cautionary tale.

6. 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows

by Ai Weiwei

Art world superstar Ai Weiwei mines decades of history in a memoir that is equal parts political statement and personal narrative. The son of celebrated poet Ai Qing, who was banished by Mao Zedong during China’s Cultural Revolution, the author finds that his life hauntingly echoes his father’s when he is detained without charges and then forced into exile. The book illumines the vital importance of freedom of expression and stands as a declaration of the triumph of creativity in the midst of political oppression.

Harper Collins

7. These Precious Days

by Ann Patchett

The heart of this generous collection of essays is a moving tribute to a woman named Sooki, whom Ann Patchett befriended during Sooki’s cancer treatment and helped in what turned out to be the last years of her life. Mixing the personal and professional, Patchett also writes about her three beloved fathers (biological plus two stepfathers), about book jackets good and bad, and about the sense of community that grew from opening Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee. 

8. A Life of Picasso 

by John Richardson

The fourth volume of John Richardson’s “Life of Picasso” biography tracks the great artist through Paris in the 1930s and early ’40s. Clear and compelling, it carefully and fairly examines his life and art. 

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

9. The Transcendentalists and Their World

by Robert A. Gross

Robert A. Gross explores the wider community in Concord, Massachusetts, that challenged and sustained Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Gross spent decades on this exhaustively researched chronicle, and it’s worth the wait. In it, he explores the tension between individual contentment and social responsibility, which is as topical as the morning headlines.

10. The Correspondents

by Judith Mackrell

Judith Mackrell’s thrilling account tells the stories of six dauntless female journalists who covered the most dangerous World War II combat zones in Europe, reporting on the action while also fighting for the same access as their male counterparts.

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Bees by the watercooler?

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For some employees who worked at home during the pandemic – perhaps rediscovering nature and a different rhythm of life – a return to the office may come with a surprise. Forward-looking companies are trying a new way to attract and retain workers: workplaces where nature transforms former cubicles and meeting rooms into tranquil alcoves and flexible communal spaces.

The idea builds on a deeper concept called biophilia, a term that assumes an innate human connection to and love for nature and all living things. In recent years, more architects and designers have been translating biophilia into commercial buildings. The pandemic has accelerated the trend.

Companies with deep pockets such as Google and Amazon are blazing the biophilic path: Google’s campus in the New York borough of Manhattan – designed by Rick Cook, biophilic pioneer – welcomes birds, caterpillars, and bees (and honey); in Arlington, Virginia, a 350-foot plant-covered tower rises in the shape of a double helix above Amazon’s new headquarters.

“We’re blurring the line between work and home,” Asheshh Saheba, managing partner at architecture firm Steinberg Hart in San Francisco, told CNBC. “Your office doesn’t have to be enclosed at your desk.”

Bees by the watercooler?

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Retuers
Aerial view of Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Oct. 28.

For some employees who worked at home during the pandemic – perhaps rediscovering nature and a different rhythm of life – a return to the office may come with a surprise. Forward-looking companies are trying a new way to attract and retain workers: workplaces where nature transforms former cubicles and meeting rooms into tranquil alcoves and flexible communal spaces.

The idea is not new. Think spider plants near office windows. And it builds on a deeper concept called biophilia, a term coined by social psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm in 1964 that assumes an innate human connection to and love for nature and all living things. Yet in recent years, more architects and designers have been translating biophilia into commercial buildings. The pandemic has accelerated the trend.

Its promoters put a focus not only on the mental effects of nature but also on the origins of health. In a CNBC interview, Rick Cook, biophilic pioneer and architect in the New York borough of Manhattan, describes linking humanity and nature through design as “enjoying the richness and complexity of nature and using the amazing ecosystem as a stress reduction tool to make our lives better.” More than livening up the office with a scattering of potted plants, biophilic design brings the outside in with immersive experiences.

Companies with deep pockets such as Google and Amazon are blazing the biophilic path: Google’s Manhattan campus – designed by Mr. Cook’s firm – welcomes birds, caterpillars, and bees (and honey); in Arlington, Virginia, a 350-foot plant-covered tower rises in the shape of a double helix above Amazon’s new headquarters. Biophilic buildings can feature air-cleaning green walls, natural materials like wood, calming ponds and waterfalls, circadian lights that mimic daylight, and sounds and scents found in nature. Flexible open space can foster collaborative creativity and more mobility; individual cocoons, as in Etsy’s Manhattan offices, nurture sustained focus.

“We’re looking to create workplaces that reduce stress, improve cognitive function, enhance creativity – all of these make our employees healthier, happier and more engaged in their work,” Michele Neptune of Google’s sustainability team told the Financial Times.

Another concept sits at the heart of this front line of design. Named salutogenesis, it emphasizes the origins of health rather than the pathogenic causes and treatment of disease. At its core is a measurable “sense of coherence,” or a recognition of life as meaningful and manageable. This affirmative approach arms people against stress and can be found in nature experiences such as regular forest walking. In its broader application, salutogenics augments biophilics by including everyday surroundings – physical, social, cultural, and technological – all potentially resting in a coherent relationship.

A lofty goal. Meanwhile, returning workers can relax. “We’re blurring the line between work and home,” Asheshh Saheba, managing partner at architecture firm Steinberg Hart in San Francisco, told CNBC. “Your office doesn’t have to be enclosed at your desk.” It can also lead to a rediscovery of the mental origins of health.

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.

Gratefully grasping the Bible’s unhidden meaning

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Each of us has an inherent ability to discern the Bible’s Christly, inspiring, healing, spiritual message.

Gratefully grasping the Bible’s unhidden meaning

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Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition

For decades, the number of British households owning Bibles has declined. But 2020 saw a “sharp boost” in pandemic-prompted sales of the Scriptures, according to a Christian bookseller talking to the Financial Times (Peter Chapman, “The home in 50 objects #33: King James Bible,” March 5, 2021).

That’s good news. But purchasing a Bible is just step one. Pondering its message is the crucial next step. Step three is best of all – when we gratefully grasp its meaning in the way that two early followers of Jesus did. Looking back on a walk with him towards a town called Emmaus, they said: “Weren’t our hearts glowing while he was with us on the road, and when he made the scriptures so plain to us?” (Luke 24:32, J. B. Phillips, “The New Testament in Modern English”).

We can’t literally walk with Jesus today. But our hearts still glow with gratitude when making breakthroughs, even when modest, in our understanding of all Jesus taught. Jesus himself promised a Comforter would come – “the Spirit of truth” – which, he said, would “testify of me” (John 15:26).

In 1866, after many years of seeking to grasp how Jesus had healed, Mary Baker Eddy discovered a scientific understanding of God that she recognized fulfilled this promise of a Comforter. A pivotal point was a moment of pondering one of Jesus’ healings, which gave her new clarity about God’s nature. This glimpse of the onliness of infinite Spirit restored her from injuries suffered in an accident and illuminated how to heal others. What she learned crystallized as the discovery of Christian Science.

Mrs. Eddy’s writings show how healing ideas pervade the Bible’s pages, and not as some mystical interpretation or secret code. What she uncovered could be called the Bible’s unhidden meaning. When we read the Scriptures with spiritual sense, which is innate in everybody, what seemed hidden to the opposite material sense comes to light. Namely, that material existence is a misperception of our spiritual identity. This materialism yields to our identity as Spirit’s offspring, to healing effect, when the spiritual reality Jesus knew, loved, and proved becomes clear in our thoughts.

Our hearts can’t help but be aglow when the Bible is illuminated in this way. That is, when a spiritual sense of Scripture lifts us to recognize the truth of God’s Word, enabling us to distinguish between spiritual thoughts and material perceptions and beliefs. In accepting the former and rejecting the latter, healing and character reformation result.

The beauty of these Bible stories and verses is that they touch us in the way that uniquely helps awaken us to God’s loving and caring nature and the spiritual qualities that constitute us.

For instance, reading about David overcoming Goliath, we might think of the giant as representing depression, fear, or sensuality that looms large in our consciousness, paralyzing our progress. Then David’s words become a beacon to us: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (I Samuel 17:45, New International Version).

A spiritual perception of Scripture can occur with less dramatic Bible passages, too. When struggling with flu symptoms, a colleague opened the Bible hoping for healing inspiration but landed on a page-long genealogy. At first, this seemed neither inspiring nor healing. But it suddenly occurred to him that a genealogy records mortal and material lineage. He saw that the reverse was actually true. We are each descended solely from Spirit, not matter, so he was spiritual and not material, healthy and not sick. With that insight, the flu symptoms fled.

The Bible itself promises that “the deaf” will “hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity” (Isaiah 29:18). Those yearning to grasp the meaning of Christ revealed through a spiritual sense of the Bible will find it.

As International Day of the Bible was recently commemorated globally, and Thanksgiving Day coincides with National Bible Week in the United States, we can be thankful for every copy of the Scriptures. And for every Scripture faithfully pored over. And we can be especially grateful that the spiritual meaning of the Bible is made plain through Christian Science – revealing the healing, saving Christ, ever present to make our hearts glow with gratitude to God.

Adapted from an editorial published in the November 2021 issue of The Christian Science Journal.

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Independence Day protest

Bilal Hussein/AP
Anti-government protesters on scooters parade to mark the 78th anniversary of Lebanon's independence from France, in Beirut, Nov. 22, 2021. Independence Day this year came as Lebanon faces its most serious economic crisis, described by the World Bank as one of the worst in the world in 150 years.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )

A look ahead

We hope you enjoyed your Monday Daily. Tomorrow, Moscow correspondent Fred Weir will walk us through the Russian priorities and practical realities that test the narrative about a looming Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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