Category Archives: Public Affairs

Scientific and Social Activism

Please join us for an intimate discussion with eminent microbiologist and geneticist Jon Beckwith of Harvard Medical School. Beckwith is the author of Making Genes, Making Waves: A Social Activist in Science. He discusses the history of scientific and social activism and the teaching of social issues in biology.

Along with having a successful scientific career, Jon Beckwith has been one of the scientific community’s most influential champions of social justice and civil liberties. He has openly supported the Black Panther Movement and was among the first in his field to warn the world about the danger of genetic engineering. He has over 50 publications dealing with issues such as discrimination and misuse of behavior genetics. He was a member of the Working Group on Ethical, Legal and Social Implications committee of the Human Genome Project and was an important organizer of the international organization, Science for the People. Since 1983, he has taught a course on Social Issues in Biology at Harvard University, one of the first courses of its kind.

Watch A Deep Conversation with Jon Beckwith: A History of Scientific and Social Activism and the Teaching of Social Issues in Biology.

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The Erosion of Democratic Values and Practice

Many observers believe we need to grapple with challenges arising from the many well-established laws, regulations and policies which have been ignored or violated over the past four years.

Janet Napolitano, UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy faculty member and former UC President and former Secretary for Homeland Security, is in conversation with Leon Panetta, former Secretary of Defense, former Director of the CIA, former White House Chief of Staff, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and former U.S. Representative from California; L. Song Richardson, Dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law; and Eric Swalwell, U.S. Representative for California’s 15th congressional district.

These experts tackle the impact on American society and democracy and voice concerns that the nation may have to grapple with a challenging period before it can begin to implement reforms to strengthen the system.

They explore the possibility of a transfer of power and the need to shore up democratic institutions to make our democracy stronger and better.

They each have ideas on a practical, yet ambitious, roadmap for reform focused on combatting the erosion of democratic values and practices in Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court and law enforcement.

Watch American Democracy: Needed Reforms.

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Big Ideas: Election 2020

This fall we have the quadrennial opportunity to study American politics during a presidential campaign. Combining real-time analysis of the election campaigns, an in-depth study of the relevant historical context, and a lively roster of guest speakers from academics and social movements, this twice a week class taught by two UC Berkeley professors provides an interdisciplinary introduction to American politics in a time of unprecedented crisis and possibility.

Michael Mark Cohen, American Studies and African American Studies, and Saru Jayaraman, Goldman School of Public Policy, take you through the day-to-day flow of the 2020 campaign, taking on everything from polling data and social media coverage, the COVID-19 pandemic and the waves of social protests, to the presidential debates and the final vote tallies. While the presidential election will hold center stage, they will also explore politics from a local, state wide and international level.

New programs are added every Monday and Wednesday evening. Each session begins with a lively, up-to-the-minute discussion of the latest events in the race. From there, delve into the sources of these current events. Each Wednesday features a guest speaker; specialists, academics and social movement leaders from across the campus, the Bay Area and the world offer their expert insight into our political system.

This election, and this moment of crisis, will define the future of American democracy. And in this class, we will examine this turning point as it happens.

Browse more programs in Big Ideas: Election 2020.

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Wildfires and Smoke

The 2020 California wildfires are among the worst in history and the wildfire season is just starting. Wildfires have been a feature of the mountain west for eons but the fires of the last few years have been catastrophic in loss of property, life and health. With increased fires at the wildfire urban interface the effects of the fires and the smoke they cause are impacting front-line firefighters and Californians all over the state, even when the fire activity is hundreds of miles away.

The duration of the wildfire season is longer, now stretching from summer into early winter, and catastrophic wildfires are increasing in size and frequency due to climate change. The fires are also having an impact on air quality with clear evidence of an association between wildfire smoke and respiratory health. Smoke also likely causes other negative health outcomes such as adverse birth outcomes.

Dr. John Balmes, UCSF Professor of Medicine, Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, ZSFG/UCSF, explains the impacts of smoke on health and discusses studies underway to improve our knowledge as we continue to deal with devastating wildfires that are projected to get worse.

Watch Where There’s Wildfire, There’s Smoke.

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Surveying the Body Politic: The 2020 Election

Newly-eligible young voters are in the news and on the minds of politicos this year. States of Change, a nonpartisan project studying shifts in the electorate, estimates that Millennials presently constitute 34.2 percent of eligible voters while Post-Millennials make up another 3.4 percent. These two groups combined will virtually equal the share of eligible voters composed of Baby Boomers and the Silent and Greatest Generations; by dint of sheer numbers they could easily determine the election’s outcome – should they register and vote, which is not a given based on historical data. Eligibility and participation are very different questions.

UC San Diego Alumni brings together two commentators to provide context and insight into what is shaping up to be one of the most contentious elections in American history. Moderator Jerri Malana ’86 welcomes political expert and author Thad Kousser, Chair of the Department of Political Science at UC San Diego. They are joined by José Luz González ’20, a Chancellor’s Associates Scholar and UC-DC alumnus who graduated with a degree in Public Health. In a lively conversation the two men offer varied but complementary perspectives on the upcoming election.

Kousser, a seasoned political researcher and pundit, outlines the demographic, economic, and ideological shifts that have occurred since Barack Obama’s election in 2008, and discusses how politicians and various components of the electorate have responded to those changes. González offers observations about one increasingly important component in particular, the under-25 voter. He notes that young people coming of voting age this year have recently exhibited a greater interest in politics than the previous generation or two, but stresses that it’s impossible to predict by fata alone whether that interest will translate into an increased presence at the polls in November.

Both Kousser and González also stress the outsized influence of social media on the body politic, and the difficulty in identifying reliable news sources. Other topics discussed include the influence of numerous special interest groups and the voting process itself, including the Electoral College’s role. Throw in such wild cards as deliberate misinformation, extreme partisanship, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and possible foreign meddling, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when contemplating the 2020 Presidential Election. Fortunately, experts like Kousser and González help to guide us through the thicket.

Watch Tritons Tackling the 2020 Presidential Election.

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