Feeling drained these days is easy. Despite a robust economy, we subliminally know there are bigger challenges that need solving and that we need to find the true American spirit again to focus our energy on positive outcomes. To this end, we asked our Last Call contributors to give us their personal takes on optimism.
Last Call from Marc
There was a time when the California coast was full of sea life.
In the 1950s, free-divers (divers not using oxygen tanks) collected generous amounts of huge lobsters off the state’s shores and routinely spear-fished big white sea bass in kelp forests. They also often caught less common blue water pelagic species such as deep Pacific wahoo, blue fin tunas larger than humans; broom-tail grouper weighing up to 207 pounds; hammerhead sharks; and black sea bass tipping the scales at more than 450 pounds.
Not that long ago the answer was obvious. But today, with the advent of face recognition technology coupled with artificial intelligence, it’s not that clear anymore.
Cameras can recognize our face, match it to an existing database, and then match all the personal data that has been collected about us (a lot more than we dare to admit). In the past we typically would only have given the Department of Motor Vehicles the permission to take a picture of our face in order to issue a driver’s license. But now any number of corporations will do the same without our permission in order to benefit from the data.
We talk a lot about the value of education in the U.S. Every South Carolina governor’s commencement speech ever given contained a promise for better education, according to NPR.
But little is actually accomplished. And as a result, South Carolina still ranks 45th in the nation when it comes to education, according to the U.S. News & World Report.
IS IT JUST ME, OR ARE WE HOLDING OUR COLLECTIVE BREATH?
The economy is doing well, unemployment is low, and yet I get the uncanny feeling that there is more tension in the air than I can remember since coming to America 40 years ago. A general feeling of unhappiness has creeped in, and it is starting to deteriorate one of our most important aptitudes: the ability to think positive.
SC SOLAR SUPPORTERS WELCOME NEW ENERGY BILL
Like the rest of the country, South Carolinians often disagree: on politics, on the environment, on education. But it seems we’re all on the same side when it comes to solar energy — and competition — being good for our state.
In May, in front of media, renewable-energy activists and solar-industry entrepreneurs, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster signed into law the Energy Freedom Act, a rare example of bipartisan cooperation.
At risk of ruffling some feathers, we need to look at income inequality in America.
Income distribution in America changed significantly after 2008’s Great Recession, leading to a decrease in the number of families who describe themselves as “middle class.” Consider these 2018 statistics about wealth distribution in the U.S.: the top 1 percent of all households earned 20 percent of the nation’s pre-tax income. The bottom 50 percent of households earned just 13 percent of the nation’s pre-tax income — down from 20 percent in 1979, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The 40 percent of households in the middle of the income distribution today earns less than 40 percent of the nation’s pre-tax income, down from 45 percent in 1979.
We can all agree that monopolies are only good for the company that has achieved dominance.
We can all agree that Google, Facebook and Amazon hold virtual monopolies on search, social media and online shopping, respectively, and combined are the main provider of news to a majority of Americans.
Thirty years ago, a new way of communication emerged. I vividly remember hooking up my Olivetti microcomputer to a landline and transmitting five lines of text to a friend. At the time it felt like we had joined a secret society with a select few in the circle. We couldn’t have anticipated how much the invention of the HTML protocol would transform communication.
Fifty years ago, Charles Fraser was in tune with the environment long before words like “sustainability,” “organic” and “environmentally-friendly” entered the American mainstream. When he pioneered the modern development phase of the Lowcountry, the term “green” meant the color green. Sea Pines at the most southern tip of Hilton Head Island became one of the first developments to use covenants and deed restrictions to protect the environment. The homes were designed to blend in with the pine forests.