State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Why U.S. Politics are Stuck – and a Possible Way Out

In this recent TEDx talk in Miami, Professor Peter T. Coleman, chair of the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict, and Complexity (AC4) at the Earth Institute, explains why politics in the United States are more deadlocked and polarized today than they have been since the end of the U.S. Civil War, and what our next president and our citizens can do about it.

Research shows that the U.S. government is more polarized today than it has been for 130 years — and this is particularly evident in the increasing divisions in Republican versus Democrat congressional voting patterns since 1979. This trend is also apparent in the pattern of Red-Blue voting nationally by citizens over the last three presidential elections.

Although the world has changed dramatically since 2000, U.S. citizens keep voting the same way in the same places — and the chasm keeps getting deeper. The bad news is this stand-off is happening at a time when our deficit is astronomical and increasing by $4.2 billion a day, millions of Americans are in desperate need of jobs, food and decent housing, and our education system is in a free-fall.

Applying ideas from complexity science, Coleman explains how the current “attractor” pattern of polarization we are stuck in came about, the crisis it presents, and the window of opportunity it offers us for positive change to be sparked from both above (our leaders) and below (us).

To learn more, see America Needs Political Shock Therapy; The Five Percent; Peter Coleman at AC4Link.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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