Century Marks

Century Marks

Acting local

Some young black activists say they see no need to vote for a presidential candidate. Koya Graham, 36, recognizes that this position is controversial, especially given the struggle of her forebears to get the right to vote. “I don’t see voting as a means to an end,” she says. “We vote these people into office, but once they get into office—then what?” She says life hasn’t improved for black communities during Obama’s administration, though she doesn’t blame him for that. Graham is committing her energy to local activism. She’s created an organization in Cleveland, Coalition of the Willing, to work on local problems (NPR, June 22).

Dead wood

An estimated 26 million trees have died in the Sierra Nevada in the past eight months, bringing the total lost since 2010 to 66 million. Drought, heat, and voracious bark beetles are the suspected causes. Two years of normal or above normal precipitation are needed to save the trees that are still living. The Forest Service spent over half its budget last year in fighting forest fires. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the Department of Agriculture doesn’t have the resources it needs to work at reforestation and that fighting forest fires should come from an emergency budget rather than the department’s normal budget. Different kinds of trees may need to be planted to accommodate warmer temperatures (Los Angeles Times, June 22).

State’s right

The governor of Hawaii recently signed into law three bills regulating the ownership of firearms. The most significant bill gives county police the authority to enroll firearm owners in a Federal Bureau of Investigation database. Another bill prohibits stalkers and persons convicted of misdemeanor sexual assault from owning or using a firearm or ammunition. The third bill requires gun owners to turn over their weapons and ammunition to a chief of police if there is a “diagnosis of significant behavioral, emotional, or mental disorder” (Honolulu Civil Beat, June 23).

No weed

Marijuana use by youth has not increased in Colorado since its use was legalized in 2012. In fact, its use has declined from 25 percent of youth using it in 2009 to 21 percent in 2015. Experts generally agree that youth should be discouraged from using marijuana because they’re more likely to develop a dependency on it, and heavy use among young people can lead to mental and physical problems later in life. Marijuana use among youth is declining nationally (Washington Post, June 21).

Basic pay

What if every adult citizen received a universal basic income—a stipend of $10,000 each year, with a smaller allowance for children? Would people stop working? Would those in poverty use their stipend wisely or foolishly? An experiment along these lines was tried in Manitoba in the 1970s. The quality of life went up, hospitalizations went down, more teens stayed in school, and the rate of work changed very little. Richard Nixon tried to get a universal income bill through Congress. Support for universal income has come from the left and the right. It’s a way to eliminate paternalistic government programs and at the same time reduce poverty and give workers more options and leverage in the marketplace (New Yorker, June 20).