April 29, 2010

Social problems

El Cabrero often teaches an off-campus evening sociology class for Marshall University. I don't get a whole lot of courses to pick from. Usually it's an introductory course. The good thing about those is that it gives you the chance to survey a whole bunch of material.

Sometimes it's Deviance and Social Control, where I tend to focus on the dark side of human nature and social life.

This time around, it's called something like Contemporary Social Problems. As you might imagine, there's no shortage of materials. I required three books, each of which I'd recommend and some of which have showed up here. The main text was Jeffrey Sachs' Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet. The others include Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea and Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma.

Sachs is an economist and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and is the author of The End of Poverty and several other works. The thing I like about Common Wealth is the way it methodically takes on a number of serious social problems, ranging from climate change to population to poverty, and breaks them down and suggests possible solutions.

Like a lot of people, I often find myself wondering whether the human race has blown it. The answer I keep coming back to is maybe, but not necessarily. Most of the problems we face are probably amenable to improvement if not solution. The real question is whether there will be the political will to deal with them. I'm not sure how much I'd wager on that happening.

MINE DISASTER. More institutional investors are suing Massey Energy. The mine itself is still too dangerous for investigators to enter. Meanwhile, widows of two miners who lost their lives in Massey's 2006 Aracoma mine fire are suing MSHA for being too lax in enforcing safety rules.

LANGUAGES resemble living things in more than one respect. Here's an item about saving endangered ones in an unlikely place.

THE "RACE CARD." Here are some wry observations on the state of racial politics in the US.



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