Climate Changed

By JOHN BUTERBAUGH

This may be the single most defeatist post I’ve ever written, but in many ways, I feel relieved. After watching a Season 3 episode from The Newsroom, I was strangely relieved to hear that any action on climate change would be pointless. We have passed multiple tipping points: the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland are melting, and we have already arrived at 400 parts per million of CO2. For many years, political inaction and climate change denial had irked me to no end. Knowing that no action could result in reversing climate change eliminated this frustration.

I could instead refocus my energy on studying climate change adaptation strategies. We think that we have beaten natural selection through our intellectual prowess. We are the species that invented clothing, medical cures, and agriculture, to name a few. However, our invention of industry has presented a paradox of progress. Sure, productivity and standards of living have risen. Still, industrialization has introduced pollution that causes health issues and global warming. Yes, we do have to live with the cost of our capacity and the price of our progress.

Sea levels will rise. We don’t know exactly by how much. The forecasts vary, but we’re already seeing island nations such as The Maldives in big trouble. Some areas will experience floods or hurricanes; others droughts. Some animal and plant species will become extinct or severely endangered. Other species will adapt by mutating or migrating to new homes.

Human beings will need to adapt as well. Farmers may have to grow different crops, especially in developing countries near the Equator. Persian Gulf states will eventually become uninhabitable, and this will result in mass migration and social unrest. Already the drought in Syria has sparked rebellion against Assad’s regime, possibly leading to the rise of ISIS.

Because we have not accepted preventative strategies, we must accept the new reality: constantly having to adapt to a global problem. We will have to manage even scarcer resources lest we want billions of us rising up and taking drastic measures just to survive. If we cannot prepare to reduce our impact on the climate, we must prepare ourselves to survive the impact of future climates.

Star Wars and the Current State of Art

By SEAN ETTER

To be honest, I was pretty disappointed by the new Star Wars film. The first time I saw it, I didn’t want to admit it to myself. However, after discussing it with a friend and seeing it two more times, I concluded that it was quite simply Episode IV repackaged with original characters and “retro” tropes to make the audience feel as if it is on the same field as the original trilogy. In terms of creativity and authenticity, The Force Awakens is nowhere near theoriginal as an art form. There are moments that recall the Lucas films. There are glimmers of hope (particularly in the final scene) that the next installments will be good. However, the movie is altogether a commercialized algorithm made to sell tickets at the box office and Chewbacca dog toys at Petco.

This is not a review of The Force Awakens. Rather, I think the most recent Star Wars film can be used to explain the current state of the movie industry and more generally of art. Film studios are rebooting blockbusters from decades ago. They have put a Hollywood spin on other stories we’ve known since childhood: Jurassic WorldIndiana JonesStar Trek, and more recently, The Jungle Book(Why? My childhood is crying!) Biblical movies have also seen a revival.However, the differences between these and a Marvel movie set in ancient Mesopotamia or Rome seem to be minute.

The reasoning behind these reboots is mostly financial. Films are expensive to make and even a large company like Disney can struggle to rebound from a bust, while smaller companies run the risk of being wiped out. Funding can also be hard to obtain: the most recent James Bond movie filmed an extensive (and fantastic) opening sequence in Mexico City. This occurred after the Mexican government offered large subsidies to the production company, which was struggling to finance the movie.

The result of the accountants’ takeover of Hollywood is that movie companies are less willing to risk new stories, and instead bank on the guaranteed revenue of reboots with a large fan base. The other result is that film studios have released nothing innovative recently, at least as far as blockbuster films. I struggle to believe that George Lucas would be successful in proposing Star Wars to today’s investors with its extremely high-effects budget and its radically different story (other than the hero’s journey) from almost anything before it.

This isn’t just a trend in the film industry. Risk-averse companies have also been a detriment to music and literature. When was the last time the best-selling novel was also one of the best literary works of fiction? When did we last see a best-seller’s list topped by books on the same intellectual level as those of Hemingway or Joyce? Granted, there has always been a disparity between the success of authors writing what might as well be screenplays for action movies and rom coms and of those trying to create art. However, with the squeezed margins due tocompetition with e-books and pirated books, publishing companies have been less willing to take a chance on a novel that is not feel-good movie material.

The same has been true in the music industry. An unfortunate consequence of the Internet is that music labels have also seen their margins fall. As such, touring has become the only way for musicians and their labels to make a great deal of money. This has always been a large source of musicians’ income. However, the sole dependence on shows has pushed labels to promote artists who can sell out stadiumsrather than small bars and cafes. Bob Dylan would not have survived in the current musical climate. The Beatles would also have struggled during their later years (which many agree were their most artistically substantial), as they stopped touring about midway through their career.

Artists themselves have often felt pressure to focus on producing “sellable” goods, rather than books and songs with intrinsic artistic value. Artists have always struggled financially more so than their business and engineering counterparts. However, adding to the rising cost of living in most large cities is exorbitant student debt for attending college. First-year graduates of Julliard or Berklee simply cannot afford to play jazz part-time in Manhattan bars and write their own music, living in a normal Queens apartment with other musicians. Many like to poke fun at music and theater majors as being overly idealistic. However, I admire them for having the confidence to pursue their passions in the face of so much societal and financial pressure to become a corporate bean counter.

There’s not much we can do to counter this trend. Many will always choose a Marvel movie over an abstract foreign film because Marvel movies are easy, fun, and allow us to turn our minds off for two hours. Alternative and innovative music will never dominate the radio for roughly the same reasons. However, there are some things we can do.

1. Stop watching Marvel movies.
2. Support normal, local musicians.

Oftentimes, the work of local musicians’ isn’t necessarily great, but it’s different. In addition, supporting artists in their formative years can help them grow into something better. Pay the $5 cover fee to see their show, stay off your cell phone while watching, and buy their album. They’re not really making any money. They’re simply artists trying to survive.

Some musicians do still want to change the way we think about music. Some authors do still try to write about the inner human struggle. Art is a reflection of our society. It’s what elevates us above clever animals in a way that technological advancement alone does not. Help art evolve out of commercialism, and in doing so, help the world evolve as well.

Media Media Murders

By JOHN BUTERBAUGH

We have observed countless gun-related massacres on the television, and lately it feels as if they just won’t stop. We continue to ask ourselves “Why?” and then say, “Well, I guess there’s nothing we can do.” We feel defeated. We blame gun laws for being too lax; we blame gun laws for being too strict. This has widened ideological divides in the American culture wars.

However, we aren’t paying enough attention to the other thing that is happening on the screen: sensationalized new media. Borne from the yellow journalism of the 19th century, the new media feeds on blood, guts, sex, and controversy. People can’t look away from a train wreck. Bad news is good news in the eyes of the media.

As such, the more the media glorifies the perpetrators of mass shootings, the more copycats that will aspire to that glory, the more mass shootings that will occur, the more sensational news the media can report, the more people will watch those news and feed the ratings of those media outlets.

And the vicious (24-7 news) cycle continues.

The media has a moral responsibility not to manufacture news in such a way as to harm the lives of many of its viewers and other innocent human beings. The news has a duty to inform us how to be better citizens, not to reduce us to being mindless consumers only interested in a shocking headline or soundbite.

We are in a way a reflection of the world around us. A part of that world is the media. We are bombarded by words and pictures that tell us who we should be or how we should act. Is this how we choose to live? The media should be pointing us to what truly matters so that we don’t reflect the ugly world outside but reflect within ourselves. We must decide for ourselves who we want to be and in which sort of world that would be.

The media has shown disconnected and alienated Americans something to aspire to: fame. The Colorado shooter (who shall remain unnamed here) is a household name. This is not a positive consequence. While Americans have a right to know that a shooting occurred and that reporting the name of the perpetrator helps law enforcement catch the suspect, copycats see that they too can be a household name if they carry out a mass shooting of their own. Individuals who have failed to gain any recognition from their peers will seek desperate measures to get that attention. It’s sad.

These shooters are not simply exploiting gun laws. They know full well that controversy and sensation drives the 24-7 news cycle, and all they have to do is feed the machine. If we really want to prevent copycats, the media should either blur out the face of the perpetrator and/or provide an alias. The media must do this voluntarily because government intervention on this matter would be a violation of free speech. A dialogue between gun safety advocates and mass media leaders must ensue, and a shift in the media paradigm must occur.

However, we must also recognize that even the media is not the only force driving mass shootings. Evil wins when we fight each other — Democrats point fingers at Republicans for inaction on gun legislation, and Republicans admonish Democrats for politicizing the issue. Discussing gun laws and mental health care is perfectly acceptable, considering that they both existed prior to the rise of 24-7 news. However, such discussions miss the external factors that influence people to conduct mass shootings.

We need to recognize the real problem — disconnection that breeds desire for power, money, or fame. Confronting disconnection will be a recurring test in 2016 and perhaps the rest of the 21st century. We need to identify children who are disconnected or alienated and include them in positive, non-violent ways. Disconnection and alienation don’t just cause mass shootings. They have led thousands of Muslims to join ISIS. When the Western world continues to say to Muslims, “We hate you,” it is not falling on deaf ears. We must understand the consequences of our own actions as they have a huge impact on the health of our society. We must stand together, and tell the media to do its job.

Welcome

Hello, all. Welcome to Greater Scheme Magazine online. We’re very excited about its potential in spreading new ideas and information around the world. The Internet is a great place, and we want to preserve the power of the Internet to inspire great change not to belittle others or to garner attention for attention’s sake.

This blog is about humanity, where it’s been, where it is now, and where it could be. We want to provide highly important information about the world to our readers in a manner that is neither condescending nor confounding. There is much to be said of periodicals such as The Economist in providing a worldly outlook on current affairs. However, this information is sadly lost on many. We want to bridge that gap.

I will be recruiting great and enthusiastic minds to help paint a picture of the world. A massive picture. We will have different opinions; that can be assured. However, we will all strive to understand the greater scheme of things. We will not write about reality TV; we will write about the reality that should be on TV.

Debate with us. Tell us what you believe should be discussed. Your support is greatly appreciated, and your constructive criticism even more so.

Thank you,
John Buterbaugh

The bigger picture of a shrinking world.