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How the Ocean Set Fire

As we scan through our social media feeds, it is clear that environmental issues are becoming an inevitable crisis. Every day, our environment faces many problems, many of which appear to be posing more risk over time, bringing us closer to a real emergency. As the current generation, it is becoming increasingly vital to promote awareness of these issues and reduce their negative impacts.

If you are caught up on what’s been happening around the world, you would know that on Friday, July 2nd, the ocean was literally “ablaze” in the Gulf of Mexico. A gas leak broke out from an underwater pipeline, managed by Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned petroleum company, causing a ring of fire to churn on the ocean’s surface at 5:15 am local time. This pipeline connects to a platform at Pemex’s flagship, Ku Maloob Zaap oil development, which is the country’s most important. Images of the bright orange flames, resembling molten lava, quickly filled up all social media feeds, along with pictures of ships trying to put out the fire with water and nitrogen. People also called out its resemblance to the Eye of Sauron, known from the ever so popular The Lord of the Rings. Dubbed as the “Eye of Fire” due to its circular shape, the fire took more than a whopping five hours to put out, finally ending at 10:30 am local time.

Pemex has stated that there was “no oil spill and the immediate action taken to control the surface fire avoided environmental damage.” Having said so, the company is investigating the cause of this leak. This incident comes as an inevitability, resulting from relying on underwater fossil fuel pipelines inherently, jeopardizing ocean life and everything else that depends on it.

Why are pipelines present underwater in the first place?

Natural gas and crude oil can be found in deposits under the sea bed, and because the fossil fuel deposits can be found offshore, deep under the ocean floor, there are offshore drilling rigs. Pipelines funnel fossil fuels from drilling platforms to onshore facilities on land, where the crude material is refined and shipped. This industrial exploitation began in 1897, but in the 21st century, drilling has moved further into the ocean, threatening different kinds of marine wildlife. The drilling discharges affect ocean biodiversity, and the pipelines pose a threat to the survival of coral reefs. 

This “Eye of Fire” has gained local and international criticism. Greenpeace Mexico, a branch of the non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over 55 countries, accused Pemex of causing “ecocide” in the Gulf of Mexico, citing the toxic properties and climate impact of methane gas. It blamed the rupture on aging, poorly maintained infrastructure and raised concerns about the harm leaked methane could have caused to marine life.

Can we ethically claim this incident as a freak accident?

There is no possibility that this type of incident cannot occur again. Gas leaks are something that has happened innumerable times in the past. Especially if you take the case of Pemex, this isn’t the only accident. They have a long history of terrible and deadly accidents. Greta Thunberg wrote on her Twitter, “Meanwhile, the people in power call themselves ‘climate leaders’ as they open up new oilfields, pipelines, and coal power plants – granting new oil licenses exploring future oil drilling sites. This is the world they are leaving for us.” Voices of discontent and negative comments come from supporters of a tightening global effort to save the environment. While community action alone couldn’t have stopped the fire in the Gulf of Mexico, this should be a sign for our governments and authority bodies to be working alongside our communities, not against them. 

Pemex said the fire took more than five hours to extinguish. Angel Carrizales – the head of Mexico’s oil safety regulator ASEA – wrote on Twitter that the incident “did not generate any spill.” However, he did not explain what was burning on the water’s surface.

There is reason to be fearful of such events since we are not sure as to what the company was trying to do, the unmistakable sign that, as humans, we do not care enough about our planet. We have to understand that the disaster is not natural; a corporation and its greed caused it. 

As Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez called it, ‘the eye of fire’ wasn’t the first time the ocean was on fire, and it most certainly will not be the last. Oil and gas leaks have occurred numerous times in the past 50 years, often related to oil tankers catching on fire and releasing crude oil into the ocean. Perhaps the most famous oil spill also happened in the Gulf of Mexico during the Deepwater crisis in 2010, after an explosion on British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil drill.

Corporations are significant entities globally, and we have to acknowledge their enormous impact (negative and positive) on all our lives. The concerns of overly corporate-led globalization and its contribution to environmental issues increase, especially since the climate crisis has received much more media coverage. There are countless examples where corporate involvement in various issues could contribute to environmental problems. Therefore, we must hold corporations accountable for the problems caused by them. 

Unfettered capitalism is an issue that has been long affecting the lives of everyone on this planet. The world’s top firms cause approximately two trillion in environmental damages, according to a census done in 2010. These companies estimate that around one-third of their profits would be lost if they were made to pay for the damages they have caused. This is a significant reason why companies are not made to pay reparations.

What we can do as Gen Z :

We were made to believe that recycling a little and not using plastic straws can save the world. Even though that is a part of cleaning up the planet, it plays a minimal role if you compare it to the damage giant corporations have caused in the name of profit. As the future generation, we have to take charge of the movement.

Multiple organizations are taking a step to raise awareness about climate issues. The Sunrise Movement, Earth Guardians, and Zero Hour are examples of organizations of young people taking a stand for the better. Many Gen Z organizations all over the world are taking action. This goes beyond posting about it on social media. For example, The Green New Deal proposal would play a significant role in reducing the effects of climate change. Many politicians have been trying to push it ahead and need support, which Gen Z can provide. 

Raising awareness and self-educating is one of the first steps we can take as the youth of today. From protests and petitions to putting pressure on the government to take action, Gen Z is ready to fight for their planet’s future. Gen Z has the power to change the fate of our dying planet, and we must take it. If you wish to take action now, some links to websites to visit and petitions to sign are given below:

https://act.nrdc.org/sign/global-climate-action-190906

https://www.sunrisemovement.org

https://www.wwf.org.uk/fight-climate-change

https://instagram.com/ourrevolution?utm_medium=copy_link

This article was written by Rakshitha Raghunandan and Akanksha Pai

Edited by Amirah Khan

Graphics by Rachel

Sources:

https://www.inverse.com/science/ocean-on-fire-pipeline-burst

https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/fire-offshore-pemex-platform-gulf-mexico-under-control-2021-07-02/

https://www.climatechangenews.com/2021/07/07/ocean-fire-exposes-weak-regulation-mexicos-oil-gas-sector/

https://newrepublic.com/article/162909/gulf-pemex-fire-pipeline-community-action

https://screenrant.com/lord-rings-sauron-eye-reason/

https://www.rechargenews.com/transition/greenpeace-slams-mexican-climate-climb-down-under-amlo/2-1-565866

https://futurism.com/oil-company-ocean-fire-history-death-accidents

https://www.ucsusa.org/take-action/climate-accountability

https://www.google.co.in/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/jul/10/100-fossil-fuel-companies-investors-responsible-71-global-emissions-cdp-study-climate-change

https://www.globalwitness.org/en/blog/on-the-climate-crisis-more-of-the-same-wont-work-we-need-a-revolution/

https://www.globalissues.org/article/55/corporations-and-the-environment

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Performative Activism and social media’s role in it

What is performative activism?

Performative activism refers to feel-good measures in support of a cause that have little practical effect other than to give the ‘activist’ a feeling of satisfaction that they have contributed to the cause.

It thereby requires minimal personal effort from the ‘slacktivist’. It includes things such as liking posts or pages on social media, reposting pre-existing content on stories or a charity organization’s request for support, signing internet petitions, wearing a ribbon, or even joining an organization but not actively contributing. It is also referred to as slacktivism – a combination of the words ‘slacking’ and ‘activism’. This was initially coined in 1995 by Fred Clark to refer to small activities by young people to affect society on a small personal scale. However, the term has developed a negative connotation to criticize online activism that lacks real commitment to a cause.

How social media plays a role in performative activism…

There are approximately 3.96 billion social media users worldwide, nearly double the number of social media users in 2015. The average person has 8.6 accounts on various social networking sites.

Recently, social media sites have taken up a more political and social context, revealing a rise in conversations about social and political issues such as MeToo, BLM, LGBTQIA+, StopAsianHate, climate change, gun violence, march outs, and more. Social media has become the forefront of so many movements even in countries that do not have freedom of speech. Thereby helping to create extensive communities to fight injustice. Social media has revolutionized activism in ways previously unthought of and given rise to a greater facilitation of civic engagement and collective action. It is a great platform for spreading a wider range of ideas, perspectives, and experiences. However, this has also led to a considerable amount of performative activism.

It’s trendy to go to protests…

Online ‘activism’ has now become a part of mainstream culture. It is considered being “woke” to go to protests and marches and to post pictures of oneself and their sign. It is now expected of every person to post or repost infographics on their stories or like several posts speaking about each specific issue. However, a mere hashtag or story repost is not a movement and frequently does not facilitate true change. The obligation to either “use your platform” or get “cancelled” leads to an abundance of performative posts. However, many times this dilutes the message instead of benefiting the cause by transforming it into a “disingenuous and passive protest that is usually limited to reposting digestive quotes and viral videos.”

So, is slacktivism causing more harm than we realize?

Pros of Performative Activism

The most evident benefit is that performative activism is the easiest way to spread and access information. An increasing number of people are becoming more progressive since the access to information and the ability to spread information has increased exponentially. Regardless of the size of one’s platform, everyone can participate in sharing information. It serves as a call for action and to show social solidarity for oppressed groups. A study published in 2015 studied how social media is a critical periphery in the growth of social protests.

Cons of Performative Activism

It is clearly discernible that performative activism is composed of inadequate efforts which tend to substitute for more substantive actions rather than supplement them. It is now possible for people to seem concerned over issues merely by liking a post which requires minimum effort and support. This gives rise to the question of whether this actually accomplishes anything or if the person has even actually read and understood the cause. Engaging in online activities that seem to support a cause but not being educated about the issue or carrying out actual productive actions in addition to reading the posts is insufficient.

With so many people posting on social media, a lot of the support for issues ends up feeling impersonal and ingenuine. It is far too easy to post or re-share something and then look away from the problem. As social media activism has grown, it has diffused individual responsibility to take action, leaving the real work to committed individuals who are personally affected. It also desensitizes us to brutal violence through the viral videos that are spread, sometimes without trigger warnings. 

A novel occurrence is the creation and circulation of Instagram infographics. These make use of strategies borrowed from consumer marketing with aesthetically pleasing colors and graphics, while providing information in a concise manner. They serve as an important tool to introduce people to social justice issues and in a way humanize serious matters without triggering anyone. However, this also leads to a further set of issues regarding whether people actually read them and go ahead to educate themselves beyond. It also leads to the question of whether such serious and tragic issues should be produced in an “aesthetic” package.

What role do corporations and influencers play?

Another important thing to address is the phenomenon of “influencers” and corporations faking activism. Over the last year, we saw several influencers setting up “impromptu” photoshoots in the middle of protests and rallies. Such actions come across as attention-seeking and shallow. It is disheartening to reduce such significant civil rights and humanitarian issues to an opportunity to get content and likes on Instagram. With corporations, it is not uncommon to find corporations making limited-edition merchandise or to change their social media handles in support of different causes. While it is obvious that these are essentially money-making businesses, it is definitely disheartening to see movement taglines written alongside other sponsorships, raising the question of “what are the intentions of these businesses?”

A study about the nature of slacktivism conducted by Kristofferson, Kirk, et al. studied the effect of the social observability of an initial act of token support on subsequent prosocial action. Researchers asked people to either join a Facebook group, accept a pin, or sign a petition for a charitable organization. They were then asked if they would like to donate or volunteer. It was inferred that the more public the initial depiction of support was, the less likely they were to offer their money or time. The ones who confidentially signed a petition were more likely to contribute than those who joined the Facebook group. This can be attributed to our tendency to be liked by others to be seen as inherently good. To our brains, others seeing us support a cause is essentially the same as actually supporting a cause. This plays into a rather interesting phenomenon called symbolic self-completion.

How can one turn slacktivism into activism?

When engaging in online activism, it is easy to pass on real opportunities to help, and settle for easier options. Performative activism is a complex issue that is harmful and dismissive of serious issues, but activism online has the potential to create change if done properly.

  • Online activism can be used to initiate important and difficult conversations surrounding social issues.
  • We can use social media to advertise or spread news of campaigns or charities which can increase civic engagement.
  • Instead of talking about how much you don’t like social evil, talk about why you care about the cause and why others should too.
  • Social and political issues are bigger than any of us and sharing your perspective and contributing to the conversation is a lot more beneficial than spewing or reproducing the same random information for the sake of seeming woke.
  • To avoid spreading misinformation on social media, ensure any infographic or content that you share has been reviewed and is from reliable sources 
  • To go further, one can join or start an organization that supports your cause. Really put yourself out there and volunteer your time and money selflessly to see long-lasting improvement.
  • The most important step one can take is to self-educate. Read books or articles, listen to podcasts, watch video essays, take classes about the cause, and listen to the people who are most affected, to get more informed about the issue you care about. Then, take action.
  • Consider your own personal beliefs and values and self-evaluate your stance on important issues to tackle any internalized bias we may hold. 
  • Even taking small steps and allowing ourselves to participate, learn and be held accountable is beneficial and these are the attitudes that we must bring into social situations.

To conclude, while online activism is a powerful tool, it becomes an issue when people post to appease their conscience and then relapse into a state of “I’ve done my part.” It is important to not stop here and continue to educate ourselves and be mindful of the little things in our everyday lives that go against our morals. All these things are capable of greater change than a single post or phase on your social media.


Written by Madhumitha K.

Edited by Tiffany Leveille

Graphics by Rachel

Sources:

https://blog.thegovlab.org/post/a-new-vocabulary-for-the-21st-century-slacktivism

https://nonprofithub.org/social-media/what-is-slacktivism-does-it-help/

https://zora.medium.com/why-your-instagram-story-is-not-enough-f41af495e99f

https://firstmonday.org/article/view/3336/2767

https://livewire.thewire.in/politics/performative-activism-online-black-squares/

https://cyberpsychology.eu/article/view/12614/10947

https://dailybruin.com/2020/06/10/second-take-performative-activism-fails-to-prompt-meaningful-long-term-systemic-change

https://callhub.io/slacktivism-to-activism/

Further reading about corporate activism: 

Further reading about symbolic self-completion:

https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/674137?seq=1

Study- “The Critical Periphery in the growth of Social Protests”

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0143611

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Are your depression punchlines really that trendy?

Trigger Warning: This article discusses mental illness and suicide. Mentions of eating disorders.


Conversations about mental health have come a long way since the last century. According to mentalhealth.gov, “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.”

The way we approach mental health and mental illness has most certainly changed with the evolution of technology and media resources. The topic has been more approachable in today’s generation, more so than our parents’, or even grandparents’ generation.

Today, thanks to social media and increased mental health resources and knowledge, conversations about mental health and illness have become less taboo.

It is no longer considered abnormal to openly show emotions or discuss topics such as anxiety and depression. The stigma that was previously associated with it in the older generations is slowly fading. Being diagnosed with depression or PTSD will not lead to being labelled a defect (in most cases). With the present pandemic, there has only been a growth in awareness created around the topic. Content creators, influencers, singers, and many other celebrity personas have been more open in talking to their audience about mental health and illnesses. But along with this surge in awareness, the romanticization of mental illness has also increased.

There is a very thin line between normalizing the discussion of mental health issues and romanticizing it. Unfortunately Gen Z and Millennials seem to have blurred the line. While the internet is a great place to discuss issues regarding mental health and is a powerful stage to break stereotypes surrounding mental illness, it has also led to trivialization. At times, it is glorified as something which is ‘beautiful’ and ‘deep’.

Communities on social media can be found describing mental illness as ‘tragically beautiful’. Although this may have started as a way to make people with mental illnesses feel included, it is erasing the struggle that those with mental health issues endure. It portrays mental illness as ‘edgy’ and ‘cool’. People with mental illnesses can feel invalidated.

Do you think posts like these glorify suicide and mental illness?

What are some examples of mental illnesses being glorified online?

Eating disorders are also being glorified on various social media platforms and blogs. Such websites are referred to as ‘ pro-anorexia (pro-ana)’ and pro-bulimia (pro-mia)’ sites. This is a huge problem as some believe that being thin and ‘skinny’ is the only way one can be beautiful and that eating disorders are a lifestyle choice and not a serious mental disorder. Living in the culture today, excessive workouts and fasting are the new fads.  Under the pressure of being thin, more and more people are developing eating disorders.

Mental illnesses in TV and film…

Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why tells the story of high school girl, Hannah Baker, who commits suicide and details the aftermath of her leaving 13 tapes accusing different individuals as ‘reasons’ for her death. While the show did start conversations about many serious issues, Hannah’s decision to record tapes was highly controversial. Many viewers felt the show failed to discuss depression and PTSD accurately and appropriately, and instead focused on her ‘revenge’ tapes. This can influence young minds by giving them a false depiction of what suicide is – only about 15 to 38 percent of people who commit suicide leave notes and 90% of those who’ve died of suicide had an underlying mental illness, according to NAMI.

The TV show Friends was America’s favorite sitcom in the 90’s. A running gag in the show is Monica’s obsession with cleanliness. Monica was described as ‘high maintenance’ but does everyone with OCD just start obsessively cleaning ? OCD is more than just being a neat freak and is characterized by excessive thoughts (obsessions) that lead to repetitive behaviors (compulsions), but does not equate to being a ‘neat freak.’

Mental Health and Music

Music is another medium that romanticizes mental illness – with rappers rapping about depression and addiction to Billie Eilish with lyrics such as “I wanna end me” in “bury a friend,” & Lil Uzi wailing—

“She say I’m insane, yeah

I might blow my brain out (hey),

Xanny, help the pain, yeah

Please, Xanny, make it go away.” In “Xo Tour Llif3”

Do you think Billie Eilish’s music and videos glorify mental illness?

The portrayal of depression as hauntingly beautiful or suicide as poetically tragic is dangerous because it encourages impressionable teens to desire these grave illnesses. The growing number of fans claiming to be depressed or anxious in an attempt to emulate their idols poses a grave threat for those truly struggling with mental health to be recognized and taken seriously.

Even the world of art isn’t spared by this wave of romanticism. All of us have heard the phrases ‘Mad genius’  or ‘depressed artist’, there is a general misbelief that an artist makes better art if they have a mental illness. While art can be a healthy media to cope with one’s mental illness it does not mean that all artists are mentally ill. 

A prime example of this is Sir Vincent Van Gogh, a Dutch painter famous for painting the starry night and cutting off his ear. He suffered from Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia but  there is no solid scientific evidence that mental illness leads to deeper artistic ingenuity. It is not a ‘desirable’ thing to have in order for a person to be artistic 

“Mental illness should be normalized but not as in “everyone has one,” but as in “you are not alone.” We as a society should bear in mind that destigmatizing mental illness shouldn’t cross the line into romanticizing it.” – Jackie Reyes

Written by Rakshitha Raghunandan and Shoeb Khan

Edited by Amirah Khan with final edits by Tiffany Leveille

Title graphic by Rakshitha Raghunandan

Sources

https://www.pinerest.org/mental-health-awareness-blog/

https://ibpf.org/a-helping-hand-an-essay-on-the-importance-of-mental-health-parity/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5479084/

https://explorehealthcareers.org/mental-health-breaking-the-stigma/#:~:text=Among%20the%20older%20generations%2C%20mental,t%20believe%20in%20mental%20healthcare.

https://www.queensjournal.ca/story/2018-11-15/student-life/the-struggles-of-talking-mental-health-with-older-generations/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2773356/

https://www.bupa.com/newsroom/news/baby-boomers-brushing-off-mental-health-issues

https://medlineplus.gov/olderadultmentalhealth.html

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/what-is-mental-illness

https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health

https://feminisminindia.com/2018/06/27/romanticising-mental-illness-social-media/

http://www.collegiatetimes.com/opinion/glorification-of-mental-illness-worsens-cultural-stigma/article_ee290ca8-d154-11e8-8f43-6f787c05d16a.htm

https://cphswolfpack.com/opinion/gen-z-romanticizes-mental-illness-and-its-not-good/

https://dailynorthwestern.com/2019/10/13/opinion/buonomo-billie-eilish-romanticizes-serious-mental-illnesses/