ARABICA - A Daily Shot Of What the Arab World is Saying/Hearing/Sharing

ARABICA - A Daily Shot Of What the Arab World is Saying/Hearing/Sharing
Kristen Gillespie


*A Saudi woman named Manal al-Sharif was arrested for violating the public order after she was caught driving in the eastern part of the country.

*Budoor tweets, "King Abdullah signals that women will soon be allowed to drive!" linking to an interview with the Saudi monarch in which he professed his respect for women, and, regarding the driving issue, said that "patience is a virtue." The interview, however took place more than two years ago, and there is no sign that women will be permitted to drive anytime soon.

*Saad Wefae is a pharmacist from the northern Syrian city of Aleppo who was arrested last month after requesting a permit from the authorities to hold a protest. A new Facebook group is demanding his freedom. Commenters ask the administrator to add more information about Wefae, though little is known and no details have been made since his arrest. One person wrote, "A man asks for a permit for a peaceful demonstration and is arrested – why?"

*@RevolutionSyria tweeted a link to a video saluting the brave Syrians who are risking not only their lives to film, photograph and document state-sponsored violence, but to post it online in a country where the Internet is heavily monitored in the best of times.

*The video features a voiceover by an activist who tells viewers: "People now have to play a bigger role." Facebook and Twitter are bringing the reality on the ground to the outside world. "Syrians with access to Facebook and Twitter – you have a responsibility. There are people paying with their blood. Take an hour every day and spread the word." The activist, speaking over a montage of tweets and Facebook pages, reminds Syrians that "if we fail, we will be held to account for those who have been killed."

*In Egypt, the Sheikh (leader) of Al Azhar University confirmed he would not meet with any Israeli, a big topic in the Egyptian media as it remains unclear how relations will proceed between the two countries. Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb also condemned Israeli interference in Egyptian affairs.

May 23, 2011

photo credit: illustir

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Saving The Planet Is Really A Question Of Dopamine

Our carelessness toward the environment could be due, in part, to the functioning of a very primitive area of our brain: the striatum.

Ad scuba-diver and brain coral

Stefano Lupieri

PARIS — Almost every week, a new scientific study alerts us to the degradation of the environment. And yet, we continue not to change anything fundamental in our systems of production and habits of consumption. Are we all suffering from blindness, or poisoned by denial?

In his popular books Le Bug humain (The Human Bug) and Où est le sens? (Where is the Sense?), Sébastien Bohler, a journalist in neuroscience and psychology, provides a much more rational explanation: The mechanism responsible for our propensity to destroy our natural environment is in fact a small, very deep and very primitive structure of our brain called the striatum.

This regulator of human motivation seems to have been programmed to favor behaviors that ensure the survival of the species.

Addictions to sex and social media

Since the dawn of humanity, gathering information about our environment, feeding ourselves, ensuring the transmission of our genes through sexual intercourse and asserting our social status have all been rewarded with a shot of dopamine, the 'pleasure hormone.'

Nothing has changed since then; except that, in our society of excess, there is no limit to the satisfaction of these needs. This leads to the overconsumption of food and addictions to everything from sex to social media — which together account for much of the world's destructive agricultural and energy practices.

No matter how much we realize that this is leading to our downfall, we can't help but relapse because we are prisoners of the dopamine pump in the striatum, which cannot be switched off.

Transverse section of striatum from a structural MRI image

Lindsay Hanford and Geoff B Hall via Wikipedia

Tweaking genetics 

According to Bohler, the only way out is to encourage the emergence of new values of sobriety, altruism and slowness. If adopted, these more sustainable notions could be recognized by the striatum as new sources of dopamine reward. But there's the challenge of promoting inspiring stories that infuse them with value.

Take the photo-collage exhibition "J'agis ici... et je m'y colle" ("I'm taking action here... and I'm sticking to it"), a collection of life-size portraits of residents committed to the energy transition, displayed on the walls of the French coastal city of La Rochelle.

Backed by the French National Center for Street Arts, photographer Martin Charpentier may be employing artistic techniques, but he's also tinkering with neuroscience in the process.

Les Echos
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