This week's editor

Mariam Ali

Mariam Ali is Associate Editor for openDemocracy's Arab Awakening page.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

‘Pessoptimism’ and the politics of Palestinian health

The development of culture-specific research measures takes time, but adding the dimension of human insecurity and distress to quality of life measures is a vital step.

Thinking like a plant

How can we act in ways that contribute to the evolving fabric of life, rather than to its dissolution? By “thinking like a plant.”

The end of Alzheimer’s “disease”

It’s time to re-inject some humanity into the unloving scientism and unjust capitalism of the contemporary dementia industry. 

Fossil fuel euphoria: Hallelujah, oil and gas forever

Senior government officials including President Obama have already become infected with this euphoria, as have top Wall Street investors - which means it will have a powerful and longlasting, though largely pernicious effect on US energy policy, industrial development, and foreign relations.

What chance of going gently into that good night?

Russia has an ageing population, a growing HIV/AIDS epidemic, and an inadequate system of palliative care for terminally ill patients that leaves Russians feeling betrayed. The failure of authorities to tackle the problems makes a bad situation worse, says Olga Usenko.

The data hackers: mining your information for Big Brother

Raytheon's latest product is a software package eerily named "Riot" that claims to be able to predict where individuals are likely to go next, and who he or she is likely to communicate with, using technology that mines data from social networks like Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter.

Cashing in on catastrophe: how to stop the climate crisis profiteers

New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina provides one of the most disturbing portraits and dystopian preludes of what the militarisation of climate change looks like. There is a hidden story here.

The NSA isn’t the only US government agency making privacy obsolete

Increasingly, the relationship between Americans and their government has come to resemble a one-way mirror dividing an interrogation room. So here’s a beginner’s guide to some of what’s happening on the other side of that mirror.

Our fossil-fuelled future 


What sort of fabulous new energy systems will the world possess in 2040?  Which fuels will supply the bulk of our energy needs?  And how will that change the global energy equation, international politics, and the planet’s health? 

The IPCC and new climate paths

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a unique public service that produces valuable scientific reports. But is yet another 1,000-page document what is needed now, asks Øyvind Paasche.

Revolt of the professors

In September Russia’s parliament votes on a highly controversial law to reform the Russian Academy of Sciences. As Aleksandr Chuikov reports, its supporters call it a bitter pill for the 21st century; its opponents, the kiss of death, and an attempt to curb academic freedoms.

How to redistribute authority: participatory knowledge matters for democracy

If collaborative science or participatory budgeting does not incorporate some openness to calamity and creativity, to the world pushing back, then it will not have the effect of generating ‘real life’ experience and redistributing authority. 

The final brick in the wall of the security state?

Why the digital commentator and technology adviser this week decided to call on Obama, Cameron, Clegg and the other 'architects of oppression' to dismantle the security state, using a quote the full irony of which he is well aware. 

The green machine of Copenhagen

When machines break down, don't throw them away, fix them. Anders Koefoed has declared war on “planned obsolescence.” This is the third video in our Everyday Stories series, showcasing people who are adding more meaning and sustainability to their lives. (Video, 5 mins)

Enlightenment values and the politics of transformation

Transformation implies renewing the core values of the enlightenment and placing them at the centre of political discourse.  

Totalitarianism as an object of fascination

The great public outcry and vehement criticism of American and British spy programs by western parliaments, NGOs, and the media clearly shows how great the distance still is between western democracies and the terrifying vision that Orwell described.

How to fry a planet

Don't for a second imagine we are heading for an era of renewable energy.

The age of endings

Our myths of progress are killing us. Where can we find a new set of stories to inspire the work of the future? Only through the creative imagination of writers, artists, storytellers and musicians. Perhaps only poetry can save us now. 

“Love 2.0:” a conversation with Barbara Fredrickson

Is there any scientific basis for believing that love can be a force for change in politics and economics? An interview with one of the world’s leading authorities on positive psychology and the value of “micro-moments of connection.”

Loving kindness – it just takes practice.

Want to meditate but don’t know how? Try these step-by-step instructions on “loving kindness meditation” from author Barbara Fredrickson. 

The neo-liberal knowledge regime, inequality and social critique

The argument about students holds that there should not be a direct public subsidy of a private beneficiary. But on the impact agenda the situation is reversed. Here the Government’s view is that there should not be public funding unless there is a private beneficiary and that that beneficiary should not pay.

Surveillance blowback: 
the making of the US surveillance state, 1898-2020

For well over a century, what might be called ‘surveillance blowback’ from America’s wars has ensured the creation of an ever more massive and omnipresent internal security and surveillance apparatus.  Its future (though not ours) looks bright indeed.

The end of a temporary advantage

Western powers are indeed trying to tell China how to behave, both implicitly and explicitly, but the idea of the West needs rethinking. A response to Xiaoyo Pu in the 'emerging powers and human rights ' debate. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on Emerging Powers and Human Rights.

Elemental Dr Watson?

Michael Edwards explores a new documentary about three people who are confronting environmental degradation in a spirit of transformational activism.

Questioning the intelligence: Obama's decision to supply arms to Syria

The red line threshold has finally been crossed – but on unverified intelligence, encouraged by appetites for military intervention. It is Iraq all over again.

What can we say? On Prism, the Snooper's Charter, whistleblowers, spies and secret courts ...

In February 2009 the Convention of Modern Liberty gathered a distinguished crowd who cared about the issues raised by a growing UK surveillance state. Their words are worth revisiting today. 

An unholy alliance

Private companies and intelligence services have entered an unholy alliance: The former collect vast amounts of private data, the latter scoop it up without much oversight.

The case of the ‘Brutal Savage’: Poirot or Clouseau? Why Steven Pinker, like Jared Diamond, is wrong

Steven Pinker claims to prove scientifically that the world is now more peaceful, accusing some critics of succumbing to myth. The author argues that Pinker is promoting a fictitious, colonialist image of a backward ‘Brutal Savage’, which pushes the debate back over a century and is still used to destroy tribes. (Long review)

After austerity: a new limit to growth?

The current focus on policies for returning to economic growth threatens to obscure the problems of sustaining growth on a finite planet. A new study hopes to respond to this threat.

Sex changes, groupies, and drag queens - all in the family

Our Sunday Comics columnist dips his toes into the water and considers the social and sexual flexibility of the parrotfish, finding resonances with his own kind



Gridlock: the growing breakdown of global cooperation

Economic and political shifts in large part attributable to the successes of the post-war multilateral order are now amongst the factors grinding that system into gridlock.

Our final century? Threats to the survival of the human race in the 21st century: Part 2

Film: Martin Rees speaks to TalkWorks on nuclear disarmament, threats confronting humanity in the 21st century and what must change as part of the 2013 Global Perspectives series.

Our final century? Threats to the survival of the human race in the 21st century: Part 1

Film: Martin Rees speaks to TalkWorks on nuclear disarmament, threats confronting humanity in the 21st century and what must change as part of the 2013 Global Perspectives series.

A century on the edge - and of hope: Part 2

Film: Paul Rogers speaks to TalkWorks on nuclear disarmament, threats confronting humanity in the 21st century and what must change as part of the 2013 Global Perspectives series.

A century on the edge - and of hope: Part 1

Film: Paul Rogers speaks to TalkWorks on nuclear disarmament, threats confronting humanity in the 21st century and what must change as part of the 2013 Global Perspectives series. 

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