Wednesday Round Up #11

What a Korean Teenage Fashion Trend Reveals About the Culture of Mask-Wearing

In 2009, you could immediately spot the cool kids at my middle school in Seoul based on a single item: face masks. The masks specifically had to be from Sakun, a Korean streetwear brand that became known for its black masks with teeth marks printed on the front. It was common all over Korea to see 15-year-olds with thick bangs and Sakun masks, only their eyes visible. The masks signaled that you were mysterious, trendy and a little intimidating—everything a middle-schooler wanted to be.

How to drive fossil fuels out of the US economy, quickly

Griffith takes a “yes, and” approach. If carbon capture sequestration works out, great. If next-gen nuclear reactors work out, great. If hydrogen-based fuels work out, great. But we shouldn’t rely on any of them until they are real. We need to figure out how to do the job with the technology available.

On that score, Griffith’s modeling reaches two key conclusions.

First, it is still possible to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions in line with a 1.5°C pathway. Specifically, it is possible to reduce US emissions 70 percent to 80 percent by 2035 (and to zero by 2050) through rapid electrification, relying on five already well-developed technologies: wind and solar power plants, rooftop solar, electric vehicles, heat pumps, and batteries.

Think of those technologies as the infrastructure of 21st century life. If everyone uses carbon-free energy to heat their homes and get around, the bulk of the problem will be solved.

Second, to decarbonize in time, substitution of clean-energy technologies for their fossil-fuel counterparts must ramp up to 100 percent as fast as possible, after a brief period of industrial mobilization. Every time a gas or diesel car is replaced, it must be replaced with an EV; every time an oil or gas furnace is replaced, it must be replaced with a heat pump; every time a coal or gas power plant goes offline, it must be replaced with renewable energy.

Rick Perlstein: ‘If you’re not writing about the berserk, you’re not writing about America’ – The historian has completed his epic on the rise of the US right – just in time for Donald Trump’s attempt to hold on to his throne

“By talking about how many electoral votes [Trump’s] trying to get in the suburbs with his law-and-order appeal, you’re kind of doing active harm to contemporary understanding. That sort of consensus frame, that things aren’t really as bad as they seem, is a story that gatekeeping media elites tell about the world, that makes them actors in the story, not merely commentators.”

A man of the left, Perlstein agrees his books are as much about the failures of liberalism and the media as the success of the right.

“The only reason we’re talking about 1968 is because Trump wants to talk about 1968. He sets the agenda by tweeting ‘law and order’ and ‘silent majority’. That’s his story.

“My shorthand is history is process, not parallels. There really can’t be a historical parallel. You can’t step in the same river twice or even once because the thing that happened in 1968 happened and we were responding to what happened. Even if there are similarities.

Researchers Doubt That Certain Mental Disorders Are Disorders At All

What if mental disorders like anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder aren’t mental disorders at all? In a compelling new paper, biological anthropologists call on the scientific community to rethink mental illness. With a thorough review of the evidence, they show good reasons to think of depression or PTSD as responses to adversity rather than chemical imbalances. And ADHD could be a way of functioning that evolved in an ancestral environment, but doesn’t match the way we live today.

People slept on comfy grass beds 200,000 years ago

Until now, the oldest bedding archaeologists had ever found came from another South African site called Sibudu, where people 77,000 years ago had piled up layers of grasslike wetland plants called sedge, mixed with assorted medicinal plants, and occasionally burned the old layers. Some modern people in parts of Africa also use plants as bedding in similar ways. The Border Cave find shows that people have been making comfy sleeping pallets out of grass for at least 200,000 years—nearly as long as there have been Homo sapiens in the world…

Wadley and her colleagues also found stone flakes and other debris from toolmaking, which means people probably also used the comfy piles of grass as a soft place to sit while working on a new stone tool. For the record, flint-knapping in bed is probably an even worse idea than eating crackers in bed, but it’s a delightfully human thing to find traces of. Grains of red and orange ocher also mingled with the bedding layers, and Wadley and her colleagues say the grains had probably rubbed off from someone’s body art.

The Cultural Distances Between Us

How do you measure cultural differences?

We apply a statistical technique used in genetics, called (FST), or the fixation index, not to a genome, but a culturome, or surveys of cultural beliefs and behaviors—in this case, the World Value Survey. So, in the genetics case, say you’re looking at the allele frequencies for eye color. If you have one population that’s entirely blue eyes and another population that’s entirely brown eyes, all of the variation between those populations is between groups. The between-group variation is equivalent to the total variation. When you divide the two, you’re going to get 1. That’s the maximum (FST), as different as any of the population can be. You could do this sort of analysis across all of the loci in a genome to figure out how genetically distant, for example, two fish populations are that live in two different ponds that, occasionally, becomes a single pond. We use the same math to look at a culturome. Instead of loci for eye color or hair type, we treat questions on the survey as loci.

What sort of traits are covered in the World Values Survey?

There’s politics, like attitudes toward democracy; social relationships, like how to raise children; religious norms and traditions; and attitudes toward sex, finances, law, environment, science and innovation, arts and creativity, sports and recreation, the media, and consumerism.

There Never Was a Real Tulip Fever

All the outlandish stories of economic ruin, of an innocent sailor thrown in prison for eating a tulip bulb, of chimney sweeps wading into the market in hopes of striking it rich—those come from propaganda pamphlets published by Dutch Calvinists worried that the tulip-propelled consumerism boom would lead to societal decay. Their insistence that such great wealth was ungodly has even stayed with us to this day.

How Cheese, Wheat and Alcohol Shaped Human Evolution

Ancient DNA shows how recent this adult lactose tolerance is, in evolutionary terms. Twenty-thousand years ago, it was non-existent. As of 2018, about one-third of all adults have tolerance.

That lightning-fast evolutionary change suggests that direct milk consumption must have provided a serious survival advantage over peoples who had to ferment dairy into yogurt or cheese. During fermentation, bacteria break down milk sugars including lactase, turning them into acids and easing digestion for those with lactose intolerance. Gone with those sugars, however, is a good chunk of the food’s caloric content.

Hawks explains why being able to digest milk would have been such a boon in the past: “You’re in a nutrition limited environment, except you have cattle, or sheep, or goats, or camels, and that gives you access to a high energy food that infants can digest but adults can’t,” he says. “What it does is allow people to get 30 percent more calories out of milk, and you don’t have the digestive issues that come from milk consumption.”

The DecanoniZine

Footnotes is very pleased to present The DecanoniZine, the final project of Theory of Culture, a core course in the Applied Anthropology graduate program at Oregon State University. The DecanoniZine follows in the steps of the Decanonizing Anthropology syllabus created by graduate students-teachers during the Theory of Culture seminar the previous year, which was adapted into a guest post on Footnotes in early 2019. The DecanoniZine syllabus reflects coursework carried out in-person, before COVID19, but the Zine form can be easily adapted for remote pedagogies. To learn more about Zines, their making, lesson plans, and access to an impressive archive, check out the “Zine Library” at Barnard College.

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