Parkland kids are changing America. Here are the black teens who helped pave their way.

Illustration by Tatiana Cardenas/Upworthy.

As thousands across the nation prepare to take to the streets on March 24, 2018, for The March for Our Lives, we’re taking a look at some of the root causes, long-lasting effects, and approaches to solving the gun violence epidemic in America. We’ll have a new installment every day this week.

America hasn’t been the same since Feb. 14, 2018.

That’s when a 19-year-old man shot and killed 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and citizens around the country became rightfully outraged. 70% of Americans are fed up with excuses from the government and the National Rifle Association for not taking action about the circumstances that led to one of the deadliest high school shootings in modern American history.

Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, and Cameron Kasky have been just a few of the numerous Parkland students leading what’s been called the #Enough or #NeverAgain movement for gun reform.

In the midst of unimaginable tragedy, these teens have been unapologetically outspoken about the collective American failure to implement safe, commonsense gun laws that a majority of Americans now believe in.

Photo by Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images.

Many have garnered a huge social media following, several have been interviewed by media such as “60 Minutes” and The New Yorker, and the young activists have made it clear they aren’t backing down until things change.

They’re already making a substantial impact on policy changes and the national conversation and understanding of gun violence. But it’s time to take a step back and remember they weren’t alone in bringing this issue to the forefront.

Some other really amazing teen activists have been fighting for gun reform for years.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Rather than getting handclap and raised fist emojis from thousands of Americans, black youth activists have often been demonized, labeled as “thugs,” and deemed trivial in the systematic gun reform conversation.

There are the friends of Hadiya Pendleton, a high school honor student who was killed at a park. In January 2013, they started a national Wear Orange movement to campaign against gun violence.

In September 2013, the Dream Defenders worked with NAACP leaders in an attempt to repeal the notorious Stand Your Ground law in Florida.

Black youth organized a massive march in New York City to protest gun violence and police brutality in December 2014. Tens of thousands of people attended the protest and marched for safety for all people.

In 2015, activist DeRay Mckesson helped launch Campaign Zero, an organization that proposes policy changes to curb gun and police violence.

And in July 2016, four teenage black girls organized a march and silent sit-in at Millennium Park to protest gun violence in Chicago communities.

These are just a few examples of thousands of active black teens working on gun reform over the years. Though many of these protests have been successful and meaningful, many have criticized the youth for their protest strategy.

It’s imperative that we not just recognize young black activists, but that we also appreciate their efforts being equally as important and invaluable as those of non-black kids.

The Parkland kids should be supported. They’ve done remarkable work that warrants the celebrity outreach they’ve received. And they’ve certainly gotten their share of criticism from the NRA and the internet.

But there are unequivocal double standards in the response to activism from young, non-black students compared with the activism of young black kids that are fighting for similar changes. In comparison, Parkland activists were quickly taken seriously and supported financially.

Historically, America has failed to side with black activists on a number of issues — including gun control — and continues to do so. This inability to recognize black activism is a detriment to real change that could affect a number of different communities, including those most at risk.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

After all, the impact of gun violence on black communities is staggering. Black Americans are disproportionately affected by gun violence compared with white Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black Americans are, on average, eight times more likely to be killed by firearms than those who are white.

As innumerable white men continue to barrel the black-on-black crime narrative on social media and Reddit threads as an excuse to not listen to black protesters, black kids have been in the streets, on the internet, and in government buildings advocating for change in their schools and communities.

Often seen in society as older and less innocent than their white counterparts, black teens face stigma and implicit bias when protesting, which negatively impacts clear, intended goals.

Critics often have even conflated the Black Lives Matter movement with violence when, in fact, most Black Lives Matter organizations center their missions around reducing violence. Black teens have organized rallies, spoken with politicians, and confronted the NRA in an effort to get guns out of dangerous hands and particularly out of communities where they’ve been especially destructive.

Instead of praise, many of the teens and young black people active in protesting injustice were shut down, ignored, or, worse, persecuted.

We can do better than that.

When we financially support organizations that mobilize to decrease violence in communities, call out racist statements on social media made in response to black kids calling out injustice, and praise black kids just as much as other youth when they protest, strategize, and organize, we can create a system that supports the values of all people.

The road to justice and commonsense gun reform is long and complex, but young people of all demographics have shown this world that change is possible when we listen.

Let’s ensure our society is listening to all voices — not just those who fit a certain narrative.


For more of our look at America’s gun violence epidemic, check out other stories in this series:

And see our coverage of to-the-heart speeches and outstanding protest signs from the March for Our Lives on March 24, 2018.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/parkland-kids-are-changing-america-here-are-the-black-teens-who-helped-pave-their-way

Palestinians hold day of mourning after 773 shot with live ammunition

At least 15 killed when Israeli soldiers open fire during mass demonstrations in Gaza

Gaza hospitals, running low on blood and overstretched by the huge number of wounded, were reeling after one of the enclaves bloodiest days outside of open war, in which Israeli soldiers shot 773 people with live ammunition, according to the ministry of health.

Fifteen of the wounded died, said the ministry spokesperson Dr Ashraf al-Qidra. Most of the dead were aged between 17 and 35 years old, he said. The injuries were on the upper part of the body. He added that the remainder of the wounded, some of whom were in a critical condition, had been shot with live ammunition.

The violence erupted on Friday after mass demonstrations took place demanding the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to land in Israel.

Tens of thousands of people, including women and children, had planned to camp several hundred metres from the Israeli frontier, which surrounds the 140-square-mile Gaza strip on two sides, on the first day of a peaceful, six-week protest.

But from the main camps, groups of mostly young men approached the border at several locations and started throwing stones and burning tyres. Soldiers responded by opening fire throughout the day.

More than 1,400 people were wounded, mostly by bullets but also rubber-coated rounds and tear-gas inhalation, the health ministry said. The Guardian was unable to independently verify the ministrys figures.

On Friday, in less than 30 minutes, reporters saw 10 people with bullet wounds carried away on stretchers at one of the demonstrations.

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, declared Saturday a national day of mourning. More demonstrations are planned.

Israel said it has positioned snipers and responded to rioting Palestinians with dispersal means and firing towards main instigators. It said the movement was a Hamas-orchestrated ploy and it was identifying terror attacks under the camouflage of riots.

The military pointed to what it said was an attempted shooting attack by a terror cell in the northern part of the Gaza strip on Friday. It added that it had responded with gunfire and by targeting three nearby Hamas sites with tanks and fighter jets. The military sent a video to journalists showing men appearing to tamper with the separation fence and said that Hamas had earlier sent a seven-year-old girl across the border, whom Israeli soldiers returned to her parents.

The Israeli ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, said: The international community must not be deceived by what he called a well-organised and violent terror gathering.

Play Video
0:38

Gaza-Israel border calm one day after deadly protests video

Hamas, which backed the protest, has fought three wars with Israel since 2008. In the past few weeks, Israeli forces say they have caught people attempting to cut through the frontier to launch attacks.

The UN security council held emergency talks to discuss the risks of further escalation but failed to agree on a statement. There is fear that the situation might deteriorate in the coming days, said the assistant UN secretary general for political affairs, Tay-Brook Zerihoun.

The UN secretary general, Antnio Guterres, has called for an independent and transparent investigation into the violence, according to his spokesman Farhan Haq.

The Palestinian ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour, said what happened in Gaza was a heinous massacre. He said Palestinians expect the security council to shoulder its responsibility and defuse this volatile situation, which clearly constitutes a threat to international peace and security.

Fridays death toll stood at 16 and included a farmer killed by an Israeli tank shell before dawn as he picked parsley near the border, according to the health ministry. An Israeli army spokesman said the man was operating suspiciously.

Al-Qidra said hospitals were running low on several blood types.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/31/palestinians-hold-day-of-mourning-after-773-shot-with-live-ammunition

Stephen Hawking Dies At 76, And Heres How The Internet Responds

British Physicist Stephen Hawking, the most iconic and brilliant scientist of his generation, has died aged 76.

Despite a long battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks the nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain, leading to paralysis, Hawking was able to bring to light several groundbreaking theories in the field of quantum physics, while making the complex field accessible to millions through a series of bestselling books.

Hawking was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 1963, after experiencing difficulties with his movements in his final year at Oxford University. He was given just two years to live by doctors at the time, but went on to live with it for more than 50 years, an incredibly long time for an ALS sufferer. Unfortunately there is still very little known about the causes of ALS, and currently no cure. You may remember the successful awareness raising campaign for ALS that went viral a couple of years back, the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge.’ $115 million dollars were raised for research into the disease, resulting in some important discoveries.

Devastated by his diagnosis, Hawking nevertheless continued his work while his physical capabilities declined. Despite all of the setbacks he encountered, he always found ways to overcome them. He got around in a motorized wheelchair, and was able to communicate through an automated speech system, which gave him his iconic, computerized voice.

As well as his achievements in the field of quantum physics, and his determined quest to find a ‘unified theory’ that would aid us in our goal to gain a ‘complete understanding of the events around us, and of our own existence,’ Hawking’s celebrity helped to popularize and bring cosmology to a whole new generation of people.

His bestselling books and appearances on TV shows such as The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory helped to promote an enthusiasm for science that will endure well beyond his passing. He has opened the door for present and future scientists through his brilliant theories and discoveries, his determination in the face of adversity, and his inspiration to millions of people all over the world. He will be sorely missed.

Stephen Hawking has passed away at age 76

View More Replies…

Read more: http://www.boredpanda.com/stephen-hawking-died-world-pays-tribute/

‘Clueless’ star Stacey Dash withdraws from congressional race

Washington (CNN)“Clueless” star and former Fox News commentator Stacey Dash is withdrawing her congressional bid, a representative for the actress confirmed to CNN Friday.

The news comes one month after the actress and outspoken Republican filed paperwork to run in California’s 44th district, which is currently represented by Democrat Nanette Barragán.
Her campaign slogan was “Dash to D.C.”
    “I started this run with the intention to address the pressing issues in the district where I live,” Dash said in the statement. “I hoped, and remain hopeful, that I can assist people living here on the national level. My goal was, and remains, to improve the lives of people who have been forgotten for decades by the Democratic Party.”
    However, Dash added, “At this point, I believe that the overall bitterness surrounding our political process, participating in the rigors of campaigning, and holding elected office would be detrimental to the health and wellbeing of my family. I would never want to betray the personal and spiritual principles I believe in most: that my God and my family come first.”
    The district, which includes Compton, Watts, San Pedro and North Long Beach, has long been represented by a Democrat.
    It overwhelmingly voted for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016, 83%-12%.
    Dash, who wrote a memoir called “There Goes My Social Life: From Clueless to Conservative,” has been a polarizing figure since she made the transition from beloved 1990s actor to conservative pundit. She is known for taking controversial stances on issues affecting people of color.
    In an interview with CNN’s The Point last month, Dash said she jumped in the race because it was “perfect timing.”
    “I live in my district and I realized this is home to me, this is where people need the most change to occur,” she said. “I’m going to fight for that change. It’s a labor of love for me. Why I decided to do it now? God. That’s why. It’s perfect timing. We need to keep the House.”
    Dash said in her statement Friday that pulling out from the race was a “difficult choice.”
    However, she said she will “continue to speak out” about “problems facing this district, as well as the distractions that take the place of real change.”

    Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/30/politics/stacey-dash-withdraws-congressional-race/index.html

    Scott Baio’s Wife Renee Diagnosed With ‘Moderate To Severe’ Brain Disease

    It sounds like a very tough and uncertain road head for Scott Baio and his wife, Renee.

    According to media reports and confirmed by Baio himself, Renee has been diagnosed with what’s being terms “moderate to severe” chronic microvascular disease — a condition that affects the brain and may have a profound impact on the rest of her life.

    The actor confirmed Renee’s diagnosis first through Twitter on Saturday night (below):

    And afterwards, Baio spoke to the media about the health news, as well.

    Speaking with The Blast, Baio said:

    “She was a former stuntwoman and had a massive brain injury in [1992] due to a jet ski accident. We don’t know if her tumors and this new disease has anything to do with this … All we know is she must live as stress-free, depression free and anxiety free life as possible and a get good amount of sleep each night. This new disease can cause strokes and dementia.”

    So, so scary.

    Self-care becomes critical for Renee at this point — and it’s doubly scary considering Renee’s history of brain tumors.

    Our thoughts and prayers are with the Baio family.

    [Image via FayesVision/WENN.]

    Read more: http://perezhilton.com/2018-03-11-scott-baio-wife-renee-diagnosed-microvascular-brain-disease-sickness-details-tumors

    She was nice to the boy who bullied her. He still turned into a mass shooter.

    Julia Suconic, hugs her friend Nathan Schoedl. Both are students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP Photos.

    The first time Isabelle Robinson met Nikolas Cruz, he knocked the wind out of her and smirked as he watched her cry.

    “The force of the blow knocked the wind out of my 90-pound body; tears stung my eyes. I turned around and saw him, smirking,” Robinson, a survivor of the Parkland shooting, writes in an op-ed for The New York Times. “I had never seen this boy before, but I would never forget his face. His eyes were lit up with a sick, twisted joy as he watched me cry.”

    It’s a chilling picture, one made even more frightening by the fact that Robinson assumed that adults would take notice and take care of the situation. She even showed Cruz kindness. Five years later, Robinson writes, she was huddled in a closet as he took 17 lives.

    Robinson’s piece isn’t a personal takedown of Cruz. Rather, it’s a reality check for those who believe that “kindness” will stop school shootings.

    This is an idea that has been perpetrated by the leaders of the “Walk Up, Not Out” movement that made headlines leading up to nationwide school walkouts on March 14.

    On the surface, the idea is deceptively logical: If more people were friendly to those deemed “outsiders,” gun violence would decrease and schools would become safer places.

    On March 14, encourage students to walk up. Walk up to the kid who sits alone at lunch and invite her to sit with you. …

    Posted by Amy Flynn on Thursday, March 8, 2018

    But the reality of the situation is much different. As Robinson recounts in her op-ed, kindness is exactly what she tried to show Cruz. In eighth grade, a year after she says he physically assaulted her, she was assigned to tutor him. She did her best to push down her feelings of fear as Cruz continued to harass her.

    “Despite my discomfort, I sat down with him, alone,” she writes. “I was forced to endure his cursing me out and ogling my chest until the hourlong session ended. When I was done, I felt a surge of pride for having organized his binder and helped him with his homework.”

    “Looking back, I am horrified. I now understand that I was left, unassisted, with a student who had a known history of rage and brutality.”

    The reason Robinson didn’t refuse the assignment? She cites a “desire to please” and to be seen as mature. “I would have done almost anything to win the approval of my teachers.”

    That’s what those who believe that kindness alone is the answer are missing: that the children they’re entrusting with the task of ending violence are just that — children.

    Make no mistake, Robinson isn’t against the idea of kindness. But kindness isn’t enough. And when it comes to solving issues like gun violence, students — who load up their backpacks and go to school with the expectation of learning in a safe environment — should never be the first line of defense. Nor should the blame for violence be placed squarely on those who have been victimized in school shootings.

    Brandon Dasent and Tyah-Amoy Roberts, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

    “It is not the obligation of children to befriend classmates who have demonstrated aggressive, unpredictable, or violent tendencies,” Robinson writes. “It is the responsibility of the school administration and guidance department to seek out those students and get them the help that they need, even if it is extremely specialized attention that cannot be provided at the same institution.”

    Robinson’s story is both heartbreaking and all too familiar. A tragedy like Parkland has everyone demanding answers and seeking solutions. But too often, the conversation steers to victim-blaming, with fingers quickly being pointed at the survivors for not doing enough to prevent the tragedy. Even when, as in Robinson’s case, students actually put themselves in potential danger trying to be kind.

    Asking children to put themselves in danger in the name of kindness is not the answer.

    “The implication that Mr. Cruz’s mental health problems could have been solved if only he had been loved more by his fellow students is both a gross misunderstanding … and a dangerous suggestion that puts children on the front line,” Robinson states.

    But then what should be done? While children are leading the #NeverAgain movement, they can’t be the only ones who demand change. As adults, we must protect them at all costs. And that means we must listen. And we must take action by recognizing that kindness isn’t the first line of defense against mass shootings — widespread gun reform is.

    A sign featuring Emma Gonzalez is seen at the March for Our Lives Los Angeles. Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images.

    Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/she-was-nice-to-the-boy-who-bullied-her-he-still-turned-into-a-mass-shooter

    New York’s Cardinal Dolan: Democrats have abandoned Catholics

    A couple of events over the past few weeks brought to mind two towering people who had a tremendous effect on the Archdiocese of New York and the U.S. more broadly. Their witness is worth remembering, especially in this political moment.

    Last Saturday’s feast of St. Patrick, the patron saint of our cathedral and archdiocese, reminded me of Archbishop John Hughes. As the first archbishop of New York (1842-64), “Dagger John” displayed dramatic reverence for the dignity of Irish immigrants. Thousands arrived daily in New York — penniless, starving and sometimes ill — only to be met with hostility, bigotry and injustice.

    An immigrant himself, Hughes prophetically and vigorously defended their dignity. Because the schools at the time were hostile to these immigrants, he initiated Catholic schools to provide children with a good education sensitive to their religion and to prepare them as responsible, patriotic citizens. The schools worked. Many remain open to this day, their mission unchanged.

    The second event was the recent funeral of a great African-American woman, Dolores Grier. A convert to Catholicism, she was named vice chancellor of the archdiocese three decades ago by Cardinal John O’Connor; she was the first layperson and first woman to hold the prestigious position. Grier was passionate about civil rights, especially the right to life of babies in the womb. She never missed an opportunity to defend, lovingly but forcefully, their right to life.

    Grier attributed her pro-life sensitivity to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who preached that abortion was an act of genocide against minorities. No wonder, she often observed, abortuaries were clustered in poor black and brown neighborhoods. The statistics today confirm her observation: In 2013 there were more black babies aborted in New York City (29,007) than were born here (24,758), according to a report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

    In 2013 there were more black babies aborted in New York City (29,007) than were born here (24,758).

    The values Archbishop Hughes and Dolores Grier cherished — the dignity and sanctity of human life, the importance of Catholic schools, the defense of a baby’s civil rights — were, and still are, widely embraced by Catholics. This often led Catholics to become loyal Democrats. I remember my own grandmother whispering to me, “We Catholics don’t trust those Republicans.”

    Such is no longer the case, a cause of sadness to many Catholics, me included. The two causes so vigorously promoted by Hughes and Grier—the needs of poor and middle-class children in Catholic schools, and the right to life of the baby in the womb — largely have been rejected by the party of our youth. An esteemed pro-life Democrat in Illinois, Rep. Dan Lipinski, effectively was blacklisted by his own party. Last year, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez insisted that pro-life candidates have no place in the modern Democratic Party.

    Last year, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez insisted that pro-life candidates have no place in the modern Democratic Party.

    It is particularly chilly for us here in the state Hughes and Grier proudly called their earthly home. In recent years, some Democrats in the New York state Assembly repeatedly blocked education tax credit legislation, which would have helped middle-class and low-income families make the choice to select Catholic or other nonpublic schools for their children. Opposing the bill reduces the ability of fine Catholic schools across the state to continue their mission of serving the poor, many of them immigrants.

    More sobering, what is already the most radical abortion license in the country may soon be even more morbidly expanded. For instance, under the proposed Reproductive Health Act, doctors would not be required to care for a baby who survives an abortion. The newborn simply would be allowed to die without any legal implications. And abortions would be legal up to the moment of birth.

    The “big tent” of the Democratic Party now seems a pup tent. Annafi Wahed, a former staffer to Hillary Clinton, recently wrote in this newspaper about her experience attending the Conservative Political Action Conference. She complimented the conservative attendees, pointing out that most made her feel welcome at their meeting. They listened attentively to her views — a courtesy, she had to admit, that would not be given to them at a meeting of political liberals.

    The “big tent” of the Democratic Party now seems a pup tent.

    I’m a pastor, not a politician, and I’ve certainly had spats and disappointments with politicians from both of America’s leading parties. But it saddens me, and weakens the democracy millions of Americans cherish, when the party that once embraced Catholics now slams the door on us.

    To Archbishop Hughes, Dolores Grier, and Grandma Dolan, I’m sorry to have to write this. But not as sad as you are to know it is true.

    Cardinal Dolan is archbishop of New York.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/03/24/new-yorks-cardinal-dolan-democrats-have-abandoned-catholics.html

    Who owns water? The US landowners putting barbed wire across rivers

    New Mexico is a battleground in the fight over once public waterways, sparking fears it could set a national precedent

    As Scott Carpenter and a few friends paddled down the Pecos river in New Mexico last May, taking advantage of spring run-off, the lead boater yelled out and made a swirling hand motion over his head in the universal signal to pull over to shore. The paddlers eddied out in time to avoid running straight through three strings of barbed wire obstructing the river.

    Swinging in the wind, the sign hanging from the fence read PRIVATE PROPERTY: No Trespassing.

    One member of their party waded into the swift water to lift the wire with a paddle for the others to float under. As they continued downstream, Carpenter, a recreational boater from Albuquerque, looked over his shoulder a see a figure standing outside the big ranch house up the hill. He offered a wave, but received nothing in return.

    Sign up for monthly updates on Americas public lands

    Its a scene playing out with increasing frequency in New Mexico, where a recent bid to legally privatize streams has public users like Carpenter more than a little alarmed, not least for the precedent it might set beyond the borders of this western state.

    While the fight over US public lands has reached a fever pitch unlike anything seen in recent decades, and the Trump interior department seeks to lease out vast areas to private interests for mining and drilling, the fate of public waterways has largely flown under the radar. Now New Mexico has become a battleground for that very issue, with the state government, landowners, and outfitters on one side of the fight and anglers, boaters, recreationalists and heritage users on the other. At the heart of the argument: who owns the water that has long been considered the lifeblood of the arid west.

    Barbed
    Barbed wire across the Pecos river. Photograph: Courtesy of Scott Carpenter

    Water use rights and access vary by region across the country, though the water itself has always been a public resource for people to fish, paddle, wade and float in. Private landowners have long taken unsanctioned steps to keep the public out of waterways, as in the recent case of an Arizona man convicted of shooting at kayakers boating down a river that runs through his land.

    But in the last hours of 2015, efforts to bar public access received official sanction, when New Mexicos state government quickly and quietly passed a bill that implies private ownership of public waters that run through private land. It was a response to a statement from New Mexicos then attorney general, Gary King, that the public can wade and fish in streams running through private property, as long as they remain in the stream, which is in line with common doctrine in many states. Landowners and outfitters protested.

    The rule remained mostly dormant until late December, when in a special meeting with only 10 days notice just a third of the 30-day standard the state began a process to allow landowners to certify streambeds as private property.

    Prohibiting access from the public is privatizing what has been historically ours, and the way this happened is chilling, says Robert Levin, New Mexico director of the American Canoe Association. The process was hasty and moved through more quickly than it should have been. From a recreation standpoint on this, you start to worry about an erosion of inclusion.

    The
    The Rio Grande river runs through a canyon just outside Los Alamos, New Mexico. Prohibiting access from the public is privatizing what has been historically ours, says the director of the American Canoe Association. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

    Garrett VeneKlasen, 51, grew up fly-fishing the Pecos, a well-known river that cuts across western New Mexico, with his father. He remembers when it was possible to walk nearly the entire length of the river without running into fencing. As long as you were respectful to the landowner and private property, you could pretty much come and go and fish right through that entire watershed, he recalls. There was almost no exclusivity.

    But when the experience of fly-fishing became a commodity, things started to shift. VeneKlasen had a front-row seat to the evolution when he landed his first job as a fishing guide at 15 years old. He explains it with an example hes seen play out on whats now a fenced section of the Pecos.

    That landowner started out just like any landowner, and he had trout in the stream that runs through his property. He decided to do some in-stream improvements, and the trout fishing got better. Then he started to stock big trout in the section that ran through his land, and feed them so theyre artificially big and suddenly, you can sell an experience. So he fences the river to keep other people out, and to some extent, to keep those fish in. And just like that, a lifestyle became an industry.

    A
    The tragedy is that the public is going to have to spend millions to win back something that was ours in the first place, says Garrett VeneKlasen. Photograph: Courtesy of Garrett VeneKlasen

    Dan Perry sees it differently. He bought the first section of his Trout Stalker Ranch in northern New Mexico in 2011, when the Rio Chamita that runs through it flowed Technicolor with toxic magnesium, phosphorus, and other chemicals leaked from the wastewater treatment plant upstream. He worked with the New Mexico governor to secure $8m for a cleanup effort.

    Now theres clean water coming out of the Chamita, he says proudly. Perry has easements on the north and south end of his property for public river access, but he restricts the majority of the waterway with a cable across the river hung with a No Trespassing sign. He feels hes protecting his investment in restoring stream health. Private property owners are some of the biggest conservation stewards right now, he says. I feel like the beauty of our lands and species survival is up to private landowners.

    Many landowners, including Perry, allow private outfitters access to the water theyve fenced off to the public, bolstering the view of many New Mexicans that this is the latest example of turning public lands over to a wealthy elite and private interests while shutting out the public itself.

    Its like someone walking into my house without ringing the doorbell and telling me that I cant sit on my couch any more, says Steve Polaco, president of the Tierra Amarilla Land Grant, a historic land grant whose heirs have traditionally fished some of the waterways in question.

    Public access advocates are already fighting back by working to strike down the law as unconstitutional, but the effort wont be cheap. The tragedy is that the public is going to have to spend millions to win back something that was ours in the first place, says VeneKlasen, by suing the entity thats supposed to act in the publics best interest and be the steward of a public resource.

    The New Mexico department of game and fish is funded by hunting and fishing licenses from people who generally have little means and its going to be using those dollars to fight against the people its supposed to protect.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/15/privatized-rivers-us-public-lands-waterways

    No hugging: are we living through a crisis of touch?

    Strokes and hugs are being edged out of our lives, with doctors, teachers and colleagues increasingly hesitant about social touching. Is this hypervigilance of boundaries beginning to harm our mental health?

    When did you last touch someone outside your family or intimate relationship? I dont mean a brush of the fingers when you took your parcel from the delivery guy. I mean: when did you pat the arm or back of a stranger, colleague or friend? My own touch diary says that I have touched five people to whom Im not related in the past seven days. One was a newborn and two were accidental (that was the delivery guy). Touch is the first sense humans develop in the womb, possessed even of 1.5cm embryos. But somewhere in adulthood what was instinctive to us as children has come to feel awkward, out of bounds.

    In countless ways social touch is being nudged from our lives. In the UK, doctors were warned last month to avoid comforting patients with hugs lest they provoke legal action, and a government report found that foster carers were frightened to hug children in their care for the same reason. In the US the girl scouts caused a furore last December when it admonished parents for telling their daughters to hug relatives because she doesnt owe anyone a hug. Teachers hesitate to touch pupils. And in the UK, in a loneliness epidemic, half a million older people go at least five days a week without seeing or touching a soul.

    Sensing this deficit, a touch industry is burgeoning in Europe, Australia and the US, where professional cuddlers operate workshops, parties and one-to-one sessions to soothe the touch-deprived. At Cuddle Up To Me, a cuddle retail centre in Portland, Oregon, clients browse a 72-cuddle menu. Poses includes the Alligator, the Mamma Bear and, less appealingly, the Tarantino. In Japan, a Tranquility chair has been developed, its soft arms wrapping the sitter in a floppy embrace.

    Is this what a crisis of touch looks like? And if so, what do humans risk losing, when we lose touch?

    Of course we are moving away from touch! exclaims Francis McGlone, a professor in neuroscience at Liverpool John Moores university and a leader in the field of affective touch. He is worried. We have demonised touch to a level at which it sparks off hysterical responses, it sparks off legislative processes, and this lack of touch is not good for mental health. He has heard of teachers asking children to stick on a plaster themselves, rather than touch them and risk a complaint. We seem to have been creating a touch-averse world, he says. Its time to recover the social power of touch.

    Touch is commonly thought of as a single sense, but it is much more complex than that. Some nerve endings recognise itch, others vibration, pain, pressure and texture. And one exists solely to recognise a gentle stroking touch.

    Illustration
    Illustration by Harriet Lee-Merrion

    Known as c tactile afferents, this last is the one that McGlone has studied for years. To find it, a needle is inserted into the skin to fish. Its like sitting on the banks of the river, McGlone says. Ones a pain fish. Ones an itch fish. Hours can pass before anyone catches a gentle touch nerve, but this elusive fibre has helped to teach scientists why humans need touch.

    By watching the nerves discharge behaviour while the skin is stroked, scientists have learned that the optimum speed of a human caress is 3cm to 5cm a second.

    This may sound like a diverting snippet of touch trivia, but its application is far-reaching. When a parent strokes a child, for instance, they are writing out the script that was laid down by 30 million years of evolution, McGlone says. We are destined to cuddle and stroke each other at predetermined velocities. The pleasantness encourages us to keep touching, nourishes babies and binds adults, and threads wellbeing into the fabric of our being. It could also teach us more about the touch-averse, including how and when autism and eating disorders develop, and even lead us to a cure for loneliness.

    Last year, researchers from University College London showed that slow, gentle stroking by a stranger reduced feelings of social exclusion.

    Bang on! McGlone says. This nerve fibre is responsible for so many aspects of our wellbeing across our lifespan. I call it the Higgs boson of the social brain. The missing particle that glues everything social together. Ironically, having been brought up in the 50s, when parental affection was thought to encourage mawkish children, he is himself sensitive to touch, and feels a gentle stroke like an electric shock.

    As a society, we instinctively understand the power of touch. That is why, after the tragic shooting at his school, the head of Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Florida promised to hug each and every one of his 3,300 students. A single, small touch can change countless lives. Princess Diana knew this when she held the hand of an Aids patient in 1987. So did Barack Obama when he stooped to let a young black boy pat his hair, so that he could feel his own potential in the palm of his hand.

    Tiffany Field founded the Touch Research Institute at Miami Medical School to study this neglected sense and its impact on health. She enjoys a weekly massage and happily lists the positive effects of being touched. We know from the science of what goes on under the skin that when the skin is moved, pressure receptors are stimulated, she says. This slows down heart rate, blood pressure and the release of cortisol, which gives people better control over their stress hormones.

    Being touched increases the number of natural killer cells, the frontline of the immune system. Serotonin increases. Thats the bodys natural antidepressant. It enables deeper sleep, Field says. Her appraisal is borne out by the experience of Kira Cuddles from Cuddle Up To Me in Portland, who has to remind her clients to check for phone, keys, wallet. They leave with a dose of oxytocin. They are floating on a cloud.

    Most basically of all, touch tells us who we are. That is why in the womb, McGlone says, with the amniotic fluid washing over it, the brain inside begins to realise, Ive got my body, and thats somebody elses. That developing brain has that sense of me rather than something else out there. If that doesnt happen, you get this almost locked-in syndrome.

    Mary Carlson is 78. She worked as a student assistant with the legendary scientist Harry Harlow, whose experiments with monkeys found that the hankering for touch is so innate that an infant, removed from its mother, would cling to a cloth-covered wire surrogate rather than a cold wire one with milk. It would choose to feel nourished rather than be nourished.

    Carlson met Harlow as a freshman. At the first lecture she attended, he came out hooting and running around on all fours. In his laboratory, she witnessed monkeys that as infants had been deprived of their mothers touch. In social groups, they would go off in a corner, self-grasping, staring into space. She saw similar patterns of behaviour in humans three decades later when she visited orphanages in Romania, a legacy of Ceausescus regime, where tens of thousands of infants were raised with minimal human touch.

    For Carlson, touch is a sort of species recognition. Which suggests that without touch, humans may be, well, less human.

    You just dont see people touching each other these days, Field complains. She has just come from a restaurant. And everybody was on their cellphones. At LaGuardia airport recently, she walked around the waiting area. Not a soul was touching another. Even two-year-olds were sitting in carriages with iPads on their laps. (Getting touch from their touch screens.) Then, at the Coconut Grove art festival, There were people bumping into each other because it was so packed. I heard people say, Im sorry! Excuse me! and move off in a way that made it look like they were really embarrassed.

    Field is planning studies in restaurants and airports to document how little touch there is and how much distraction by social media. There is as yet no scientific data to connect declining touch to the rise of mobile technology or social media, but Fields descriptions of people wrapped in their own worlds rather than each other, sitting in isolation, bowed over screens, a huddle unto themselves, are evocative and familiar.

    Do those atomised people who bounce off each other at art fairs before spinning away in shame, or those who sit day after day alone in their homes carry shades of Harlows monkeys self-soothing in the corner of their cages? And if so, where will our loss of touch lead us?

    Kellie Payne, research and policy manager at the Campaign to End Loneliness, says that loneliness is fatal precisely because it puts people into a kind of defensive state where the levels of cortisol are raised. Having had negative experiences, they anticipate that their connection with people will also be negative, which makes it hard to reinstate contact. To add to the challenge for the elderly, touch sensation is in decline. According to David J Linden, author of Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart and Mind, Humans have their strongest touch sensation at around 20, after which it goes down by a percent a year for your whole life.

    Field, meanwhile, is worried about the rise in paediatric pain syndromes, such as irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia, previously common only in adults. She thinks this is due to stress and the absence of touch, and is also worried that kids are getting more and more aggressive because there is less and less touch.

    This is what Im concerned about, McGlone says. If this evolutionary system is in any way disturbed or interrupted, brains are good at finding compensation. It could be drugs or alcohol … If you remove a reward system, the brain will try to find some other way to get that reward.

    Humans love touch. We love it so much that the word has the power to sell a heap of products from soft-touch pillows to velvet touch tights, expert touch saucepans and even smooth, perfecting touch face creams. But touching each other in an age of pervasive and historical sexual abuse and harassment no longer feels safe.

    There is a hypervigilance of boundaries that makes it hard to find the right approach. I think twice about hugging a colleague at work in a way that I didnt a couple of years ago, Linden says. Im thinking, maybe this is going to be misinterpreted. Maybe this is going to make somebody feel bad.

    Touch even the gentlest kind processed by McGlones beloved c tactile afferents is never only about affection, warmth and care, but also about power. (Just watch Donald Trump greet world leaders.) The so-called Midas touch studies which have shown that diners gently touched on the arm by their server will leave a generous tip, or that people in a care home eat more if touched, illustrate the power of touch to persuade. Touch can retract as well as confer agency. It is not a universal good. It can exacerbate the symptoms of those with autism, and those who have experienced trauma or abuse.

    At her home in north London, I meet Anna Fortes Mayer, who has run Cuddle Workshop since 2010. We sit on her red sofa and talk about how to broach touch. She is not tactile, but then we are strangers and her sofa is large.

    I tell her about my touch diary: by now my yoga teacher has patted me and Ive collected a matchday hug from my daughters football coach. Its not much. Its really not, Fortes Mayer says, shaking her head. But whats a person to do? How can we build more touch into our lives?

    For a start, Fortes Mayer advises against energetically leaning forward for a hug. She dislikes the phrases Do you want a hug?, Give us a hug and Can I have a hug?; they are all too, Who takes ownership here? (This is the mistake Kesha made with Jerry Seinfeld.) She suggests instead, Would you like to share a hug?

    Encouraging self-consciousness of the ways in which people offer and invite touch has many benefits. But this kind of touch can never be impulsive, immediate, if it comes with explanatory notes. And touch that breaks protocol can feel more affecting. Consider the excitement when Meghan Markle preferred a hug to a handshake, or Michelle Obama slipped an arm around the Queens back. Even McGlone, despite that 1950s upbringing, on a walk through the park, was tickled to see a big rugby player type bloke offer his wife and then him a hug. (He was so touched, he started to explain about c tactile afferents.)

    In Fortes Mayers hall, I put my shoes back on and with my hands at my sides ask, Anna, would you like to share a hug? She says yes and it feels good.

    I will often place my hand on someones shoulder, Carlson says. I believe in touch. There are ways you can do it so it isnt demeaning.

    Even stranger touch, when its wanted, is pretty good, Linden points out. Even petting your dog. Even petting a dog thats not yours. For the truly solitary, daily power walking stimulates pressure points. Its what Tiffany Field does. She also advocates yoga: Its moving your limbs against each other.

    Of course, nobody thinks that a cure for loneliness will happen at a stroke, but maybe careful touch could bring it closer.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/mar/07/crisis-touch-hugging-mental-health-strokes-cuddles