Archive for January, 2011


The issue of Pebble Mine has been ongoing for some years now and continues to be debated among statewide institutions, so I find it important to educate myself on the matter a bit more.  From what I know of the project off the top of the my head, it could be enormous in scope and affect numerous groups of people. Pebble Mine has resources our society needs, but if you have ever read Collapse the repercussions of mining are more apparent now than ever.

The proposed Pebble Mine project is an extremely large and controversial copper, gold, and molybdenum open-pit mine proposed to develop within one of Alaska’s Crown Jewel watersheds draining into Bristol Bay in Southwestern Alaska. The proposed site is near Lake Iliamna and Lake Clark. It has been argued that only a large mine is feasible at Pebble due to the low-grade character of the ore. The development and operation of Pebble Mine would be a massive industrial project, costing billions of dollars. Infrastructure would need to be built in order for the mine to operate correctly. This could include miles and miles of roads and bridges across currently undeveloped Alaska wilderness. It would need pipelines for fuel, the use of great amounts of process water, safe storage methods for copious amounts of surface water, electrical lines and constant transport of numerous supplies.

Progress

The Pebble west site would most likely consist of open-pit mining. They are used when deposits of commercially useful minerals or rock are found near the surface. Open-pit mines are, in general, enlarged until either the mineral resource is exhausted or an increasing ratio of overburden to ore makes further mining uneconomic. The Pebble east site would most likely be mined using tunneling and underground methods. The open pit currently being envisioned by the Pebble Mines Corp. would be two miles wide and several thousand feet deep.

It is estimated that 2.5 billion tons of rock waste would be produced by the mining, which would have to be stored forever, along with discharge chemicals, in two artificial lakes behind massive earthen dams. Northern Dynasty Minerals, Ltd. estimated that Pebble contains over $300 billion worth of metals at early 2009 prices. Pebble Mines Corp. is expected to make the final construction decision of the project sometime in 2011.

Information on the project was only a mouse-click away. Numerous websites can be found on the Internet both for and against the development of the mine. I will start with the information provided by PebbleMineAlaksa.com, a very informative website that is clearly against the development of the large mine. The website makes clear the ecological importance of the Bristol Bay area. Its waters are home to Alaska’s largest sustainable commercial sockeye salmon fishery. Tens of millions of salmon return to the small area every year. In addition, fisherman have traveled to the area for years for the famous sport salmon and trout fishing, so not only is it a vital location for subsistence living, but for tourism as well. The website goes as far to call the area the final place on earth capable of sustaining such massive runs of salmon that return there year after year to spawn.

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Images can often have social value. Images do not have value in and of themselves. Instead, they are awarded different kinds of values—monetary, social and political—in particular social contexts. Two modern images that immediately come to mind are Obama’s red, white and blue campaign photo, showing the then-presidential hopeful staring off into the distance with ‘progress’ printed below the determined-looking man; and Macintosh’s logo, an apple.

An icon is an image (photograph, painting, logo, etc.) that refers to something outside of its individual components, something or someone that has great symbolic meaning for many people. An hourglass depicting two blue globes, the top globe dripping into the one below may be an image of great symbolic meaning for years to come.

When the word iconic is used in conversation its true meaning often fumbles through my mind. For someone or something to become endeared through generations seems impossible. To be an icon, however, does not always occur through love. Violence and heated politics have some of the most-known iconic images associated with them. It can be argued that the conflicts of Tiananmen Square will be remembered not for their political context, but rather for one prominent image of a brave student standing before a line of tanks. The photo has become an icon of political struggles for freedom of expression.

It is hard to imagine images reaching a similar status in today’s overloaded news cycle. Professor and Chair of the Department of Media, Culture and Communication at NYU Marita Sturken has stated, “As images are increasingly easy to generate and reproduce electronically, the values traditionally attributed to them have changed.”

Western Art for ages consisted of homologous paintings of a nurturing mother caring for an infant. A mother holding her child, book strewn out on a table also covered with bread and fruit, a relaxed look upon the child’s face and a content smile across the face of the mother. This is widely believed to represent universal concepts of maternal emotion, the bond between mother and offspring and the importance of motherhood throughout the world and human history. These ideals are no longer as universal as they were in the past. Mothers around the globe struggle to provide for their children, and the simple joys of children may escape them. Some women also no longer see themselves as the sole provider of love and affection. Images of motherhood are specific to particular cultures at particular moments in time.

By the year 2020, news will be downloaded directly to your brain and information will be uploaded to memory just as if you were an MP3. Everyday, people are inundated with about 34 GB of information, a sufficient quantity that could overload a laptop within a week. As a result there will be numerous limits to this new form of news delivery. Information obtained will have to be erased on a weekly, monthly or annual basis, depending on the purchased memory capacity. The rich will become richer, as they can afford the best technologies and will no longer need to send their children to expensive universities. Education will become digitally infused in the mind. Within ten years of introduction, however, it will be discovered that by implementing these new wonders into one’s brain causes an incurable type of cancer, and the wealthiest segments of the global population will be wiped from the face of the planet. The technology, iMind, will be so costly that the majority of people—anyone below what modern sociologists have recently referred to upper middleclass—will be free of this new affliction.

The Grid

After the nation suffers this loss it will become clear to global citizens that consumer culture and corporations have caused the populace to suffer a form of mind pollution, and a movement will begin to establish credible news organizations with anchors that can be trusted. Communities will elect multiple anchors, and depending on the size of the community there may be a large pool anchors. Whether these anchors are needed will be the topic of much debate. The anchors themselves would be educated men and women of various backgrounds, whose jobs will simply consist of digesting and delivering news they find relevant to the citizens that elected them. While some of the citizenry will be able to relate to the new anchors they will not be expected to be best friends with all viewers. Their job will be political, as it should be with elected officials. It would be best if multiple anchors provided the news in an alternating pattern. Bias would still be present. It is impossible to escape the polarization of views, but objective journalism will be the key to the new system.

To juxtapose these elected anchors, raw footage of events will be available for streaming multiple times during broadcast. A prompt will appear when the anchor mentions an event or topic with supplemental video footage. People can then check what others are saying about the video and the anchor’s comments via Vidder, the instant information exchange that records people directly from their televisions. The anchor will respond to key elements of the discussion later in the broadcast. This will heal the dissociation viewers have from the form of current newscasts. Whether information being supplied to viewers can be trusted in addition to thoughts on facts and figures that are missing can be debated thoroughly and instantly. We now use many tools to interpret images and create meanings with them, and we often use these tools by looking automatically, without giving them much thought. Images are produced according to social and aesthetic conventions. By use of instant discussion social norms of right and wrong will come into question, as people—though part of the same community— will thrust cultural shock upon one another. A participating high school classroom in a crime-ridden neighborhood will not agree on issues with the upper middleclass tuning in from their couches.

Entertainment

Not everyone will be able to receive their news in this way, so print publications will remain a cornerstone of information consumption. Much debate on Vidder, over the Internet—which by 2020 will be regulated by the government and as a result not be the outlet of free speech it is today—and in public space will begin with print. All joking aside, the written word will remain strong, this I believe. Authorities can censor all forms of media, but they will never be able to fully censor speech—I hope. Citizen journalists will not command the flow of information, but they will help. This is already occurring with the advent of Twitter and Facebook.

Humanity does need guidance when it comes to receiving information. History has shown, people can be manipulated and swayed. The broadcast stations which implement Vidder will be privately owned and government funded. There will also be channels provided for individuals not aligned with any corporation or political party. Each form of funded broadcast will have equal share of the airwaves. Filtration of information will be carried out through debate and discussion. This is all wishful thinking, of course. In reality, corporations will continue to purchase small news entities until freethinking individuals are pushed off the radar. People have the capacity to improve, and distrust in our lobbyist-controlled system will eventually emerge in the masses. The American Dream as depicted by Walt Whitman is truly gone. Citizens are starting to change that dream by altering long-embedded ideals. The amount of information received is overwhelming and it will remain so, but at the same time the world has always seemed overwhelming to those with a sense of wonder. Radical change will occur. Probably not in the science fictionesque way described, but a catalyst is forming that will forever change society. When that change will occur is indeterminable.

Anchors away

I certainly agree that microstream media has changed the way society receives their news. It is uncertain, however, if the flow of information has improved because of this digital evolution. There was certainly more material to sift through regarding Tucson through newer forms of media like Twitter and Youtube, but that does not mean that a higher quality picture was produced as a result. If a person takes a video a block away from a shooting showing jammed traffic and enthusiastically touts their eagerness to place the video on Facebook it does little in the way of establishing understanding.

What all these new outlets achieve is the rapid spread of news. Something that would have took hours to get across the country at the advent of broadcast news now reaches the webpages of Twitter within 15 minutes, which is quite amazing.

There was not much—if anything—missing from the news coverage of Tucson, but drab news anchors often cause me as much anger as violent events. As one watches Walter Cronkite get choked up over the assassination of JFK you can’t help but be humbled. The attractive anchors filling the cable television shows can seem as detached from daily acts of violent as Americans are from the two major wars currently taking place overseas. No anchor is a revered today as Cronkite was in the 1960s and 1970s. People certainly have their “anchors,” but talking heads garner much more attention then legitimate anchors.


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