Friday, October 15, 2010
Race Riots and the Ghetto Underclass: A number of American cities erupted with ethnoracial violence in the late 1960s. Struggling with the effects of racial segregation, which was an urban socio-political process marked by the spatial separation of various ethnoracial groups, the ghetto underclass rioted. But why? With the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, racial segregation should not have been a major concern anymore, right? In 1965, the federal government issued the Moynihan Report, which attempted to address the basic sociological afflictions of inner-city African-American families. It effectively stated that without viable access to employment, black men were unable to carry out their familial duties. The disintegration of African-American family structure was therefore considered a primary cause of urban ethnoracial violence. After pervasive urban rioting throughout 1967, the federal government continued to investigate the problem with the Kerner Commission in 1968. Ultimately, the Commission pointed to the persistence of school, housing, and employment segregation as precipitating the rioting, and that only a governmental plan for "total integration," which included public accommodations, could alleviate the problem.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Mining for the Future: Apart from war-related inventions like radar and rocketry, mining has facilitated more engineered innovations in the industrialized world's infrastructure than any other industry. In Technics and Civilization (1934), historian Lewis Mumford concluded that mining engineering had raised the quality of life for many humans by making the inconvenient convenient. From tunnels to railroads to elevators, the mining industry was the first to develop and utilize these technological innovations on a large-scale. For instance, the ideas behind square-set bracing, which constituted a method for reinforcing mine shafts, was an effective precursor to the development of reinforced concrete in the 1890s by French engineer François Hennebique. Without reinforced concrete, many of today's bridges, dams, highways, and skyscrapers would not exist. Nevertheless, the origins of mining date back to the Paleolithic Age (c. 40,000 years ago). As a process, mining involves the extraction of minerals from the Earth. These minerals are initially confined in an ore material, but later become refined into a purer substance. Coal mining, for example, is perhaps the most pervasive and pernicious form of mining today. Although coal represents one of the world's most abundant resources, mining it can release various toxic gases, including hydrogen sulfide.