Chinese exhibitors should stop wantonly raising movie ticket prices or else prepare to face consumer backlash, a key government-affiliated consumer rights body said in a new report. The high price of movie tickets was one of the top categories of consumer complaints over the country’s big Chinese New Year holiday, according to the China Consumers […]
When someone gets mugged or is subjected to racist harassment on the street, most people will walk by like nothing happened. Sometimes, no one stops to help at all. In fact, the more people present, the less likely that any one person will intervene—a phenomenon known as the bystander effect.
Ignoring someone in danger is a psychological instinct. But that doesn’t mean you’re destined to freeze up in the face of a crime. This is how you become a better bystander.
Why the bystander effect zaps your courage
There’s not one reason why people look away when a crime goes down. There’s a ton of them.
Critically, individuals feel less responsible for intervening when other people are around. They assume someone else will handle it. But because each witness experiences this diffusion of responsibility, sometimes no one acts, and the victim doesn’t receive any help. Similarly, if an onlooker sees that no one else is assisting someone in need, they may assume it’s because that person doesn’t actually need help, says Ervin Staub, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and author of The Roots of Goodness and Resistance to Evil.
Sometimes fear is what stops bystanders in their tracks. “People feel uncomfortable stepping forward in the presence of others and potentially making a mistake,” Staub says. That misstep could mean trying to stop what they think is a kidnapping but is actually a child throwing a tantrum, or failing at their intervention.
Similarly, bystanders may not step in because they’re afraid someone will blame them for the situation. They may also fear that the perpetrator will turn and attack them, whether they’re watching a violent crime or verbal harassment, says Stephanie Preston, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan.
The context surrounding the incident has a significant effect on whether passersby will jump in and help, too. Men and women, for example, are both more likely to help a victim if the other bystanders are women, Preston says. A bystander is further likely to respond if they’re surrounded by friends instead of strangers. In these situations, the active bystander may feel less intimidation, she explains.
Although social factors are a major part of the bystander effect, the witnesses’ personalities also play a role. Bystanders who care more about others are more likely to intervene, Staub says. And because confronting criminals is dangerous, risk-takers and thrill-seekers are more likely to step in, says Frank Farley, a professor of psychological studies in education at Temple University and former president of the American Psychological Association. “Whatever is going on in the bystander effect, it’s a recipe with several ingredients,” he says.
Prepare in advance to be a better bystander
You can’t predict how you’ll react when someone steals a purse before your eyes, but you can train to be an active bystander. Just learning about the bystander effect increases your odds of interceding in an emergency, Staub says.
Practicing being an active bystander by taking action in low-stakes scenarios can prepare you to intervene when you witness a crime. “People learn by doing and change as a result of their own actions,” Staub says. For example, if you call out friends and co-workers when they’re rude to others, it can become easier to intervene when you see a stranger being harassed.
Preston recommends rehearsing a motto you feel comfortable using when you see someone being attacked. “It’s really beneficial to practice in advance coming up with a phrase that you think would convey the message, but in a way that you feel is more helpful than likely to hurt,” she says. For example, Preston likes to avoid sounding angry because she has found a friendly—even facetious—tone can defuse tense situations.
When witnessing a racist attack or any other type of verbal harassment, de-escalation is key. Make conversation with the victim and ignore the attacker, or call them out in a polite tone if you don’t think it will aggravate the situation, according to the Irish Network Against Racism. Continue talking with the victim until the aggressor stops, then help them get to a safe place.
If you want to practice with experts, you can find many educational courses online. Hollaback!, a nonprofit working to end all forms of harassment, offers free bystander intervention training for a wide range of scenarios. Employee training company Traliant also has a 25-minute standalone course aimed at fighting harassment and discrimination in the workplace. You may also be able to find classes hosted by community organizations in your area.
Take action in the moment
By stepping in to stop a crime, you run the risk of getting physically and emotionally injured. There’s no way to completely eliminate that risk. But by assessing the situation and taking appropriate actions, you can reduce the risk of harm to everyone involved, including yourself, the victim, and the perpetrator.
When you notice a crime, pause to think. Before you rush in to help, establish that there is a real need, Staub says. Next, define what’s happening. If possible, point out the situation to other bystanders. Once you do, they will be more likely to intervene themselves. This process can happen in seconds.
You must next resist the bystander effect and act. You may be unsure if you’re the right person to help. Someone else may be more qualified. But don’t let that fear stop you. It’s more important to respond in some way than it is to have the perfect response, Preston says.
Still, don’t charge in. Start with a minor intervention, such as telling the perpetrator to stop. If that doesn’t work, then you can get physically involved. Even if you’re not strong or fast enough to protect the victim, your actions may make someone who is capable more likely to jump into the fray. And even if you can’t stop the perpetrator, your efforts won’t be wasted: Victims feel better afterward if they had an ally in the moment, Staub says.
If you’re uncomfortable getting involved directly, you can still help. Recording the incident can save crucial information to help the victim later if they go to the police. You can also call the police yourself, but be aware that they can misread the situation and cause even more harm themselves. If possible, ask the victim if they want you to call the police before you do. Alternatively, grab the attention of other bystanders and ask them to assist the victim. Singling out individuals is particularly helpful. “There are a lot of things you can do besides running away and focusing on yourself,” Preston says.
Workdays can begin hours before dawn in Guaymas, Mexico, where a small cohort of locals launch modest fiberglass-and-wood boats from the rocky shore into waters that will gleam azure at sunrise. From their pangas, crafts about 20 feet long with little more than three bench seats and an outboard motor, the 38 members of the Sociedad Cooperativa de Producción Pesquera 29 de Agosto SCL cast baited hooks on longlines and pull in yellowtail, grouper, or snapper by hand. On most outings, each boat can catch as much as 220 pounds before it returns to dock in the afternoon.
Some 75 years ago, co-op president Andrés Grajeda Coronado’s great-grandfather, Celso Grajeda, handled his catch the same way. “He used the same as we do: a line and a hook,” says Coronado. A statue of Celso, one of Guaymas’ first fishermen, overlooks the town. Today, the city is the most productive seafood-producing community of the dozens that dot the Gulf of California, the strip of water separating the Baja peninsula from mainland Mexico, where thousands of laborers deliver fish from the ocean to cities.
In Celso’s day, he was one of only a few men selling catches directly to consumers on the docks, but today, a generation of artisanal workers often find themselves tangled at the bottom of a vast global supply chain. Ninety percent of the world’s 35 million fishermen operate on a small scale—with millions in remote, rural areas—yet they produce more than half of the global catch and a similar share of what hits their countries’ export markets. Many live hand to mouth, dependent on a string of middlemen to keep 91 million tons of perishable wild-caught fish cold, processed, and distributed to restaurants, hotels, and supermarkets.
On many remote docks, a single buyer sets the price, or a few collude to keep fishermen from demanding higher rates. And all the shuffling between parties from there onward provides ample opportunity for misconduct. Catches that are illegal, unreported, or unregulated (known in the trade as IUU) account for one of every five fish reeled in, injecting $23.5 billion worth of effectively stolen seafood into the market, according to Global Fishing Watch, an international nonprofit that uses satellites, infrared, and radar imagery to detect IUU. Such losses jeopardize food security for over 3 billion people and the livelihoods of small-scale fishermen.
To maintain incomes, they do whatever they can to catch more. In Guaymas, a majority use gill nets, which trap swimmers by the gills in webbing—to devastating consequence. A 2016 assessment of 121 Gulf of California fisheries stocks by researchers at several entities, including the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, estimates that 69 percent have collapsed and another 11 percent are overexploited. Such indiscriminate methods also lead to losses of other species, notably the critically endangered vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise. There may be no more than 10 of them left.
That’s in normal times. When COVID-19 shut down most of the world in March 2020, it unleashed an economic tsunami on the $150 billion global seafood market. The shuttering of restaurants, where nearly 70 percent of catches ended up before the pandemic, dried up demand for high-end chef favorites such as lobster, abalone, and squid—as well as everyday fare like Guaymas’ yellowtail and grouper.
The global movement of fresh fish—the most traded food commodity in the world—has been sputtering ever since. The coronavirus is an “unparalleled” disruption, says Paul Doremus, deputy assistant administrator for operations at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, the US agency tasked with monitoring marine resources. “It is so comprehensive in scale and scope and so long in duration that it is going to have profound effects on seafood supply chains globally, in ways we don’t entirely understand yet.” The interruption has undoubtedly complicated efforts to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal to end overfishing, illegal catches, and destructive practices by the end of 2020.
Amid the chaos, though, many see an opportunity to reshape seafood sales in ways that bolster adoption of more sustainable methods and create a more equitable future for fishermen like those in Coronado’s co-op. That starts with helping the little guys benefit from supplying the best of their goods to a growing market of home cooks and eco-conscious retailers. The secret weapon is transparency: the ability for the end consumer, and industry monitors, to verify the how, where, and by whom of each snapper, salmon, or shrimp.
Over the past few years, nonprofits, government agencies, and industry collectives have begun steady development of projects to rebuild depleted fish stocks, often by enlisting locals in managing catches. In addition, efforts are underway to test and adopt traceability technologies such as RFID chips, QR tags, and blockchain coding to carry information about a specific fish from hook to cook.
The fact that Coronado’s cooperative had always caught by ethical means attracted SmartFish, a La Paz, Mexico, company focused on championing sustainable fishing in the region. The organization’s nonprofit arm helps workers transition to eco-friendly practices, while its for-profit business sells their goods directly to high-end restaurants and the public.
When asked what his ancestor would think of a QR code slapped on a frozen hunk of yellowtail or snapper bound for California, Coronado’s serious demeanor suddenly erupts into a chuckle. “Are you crazy?” he quips, mimicking Celso’s imagined reaction. In his mid-50s with jet-black hair, Coronado is younger than most of his graying co-op members. With very few of their children interested in carrying on the family business, he knows that if something doesn’t change soon, there will be nothing but gill nets—and dangerously dwindling stock—left.
Before the co-op joined SmartFish in 2019, Coronado dealt with at least two middlemen—one in Tijuana and one in California—who bought the group’s catch. He knew the goods would shuffle about a lot before reaching a shelf or plate, but a fisherman’s main concern is simply moving stock off the dock.
The Byzantine global distribution of seafood resembles a bizarre game of cold potato: Unable to hold their catches on ice indefinitely, fishermen are beholden to third parties who can wait for ideal market conditions to unload inventory. While distributors can stockpile frozen supplies of mahi-mahi for months or even years, folks like Coronado must often accept low prices simply to unload their perishables. Some 27 percent of fish gets lost, discarded, or wasted before it can reach the consumer, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In Mexico, some “fishers catch high-quality wild seafood, but with poor handling, it turns into sunbaked rotten mash,” says Cecilia Blasco, executive director of SmartFish, which partners with five cooperatives around the Baja peninsula.
Blasco estimates that in a conventional supply chain, up to 12 different parties might touch a yellowtail on its way to the consumer from Guaymas. Typically, fishermen offload their catch to a local entrepreneur, who takes it to the closest town and sells it to a small aggregator; from there, buyers from larger markets in Mexico City or Guadalajara purchase high-value species—all before the goods reach a distributor or exporter. Buyers at every stage command a cut, and those doing the actual fishing in western Mexico usually receive only 18–20 percent of the final price.
Shady practices on larger vessels further disadvantage the little guys. One of the most common schemes: Refrigerated cargo vessels, called “reefers,” stay in international waters, which allows them to circumvent regulations if, say, they aggregate legal and illegal fare from multiple smaller crafts. (The practice is most prevalent off the coasts of Russia and West Africa and in the South Indian Ocean and the equatorial Pacific Ocean.) In effect, they’re laundering the catch.
Because all fish looks more or less the same once it reaches the shelf, it’s easy to hide ill-gotten goods. Even a fillet marked “wild caught” at the grocer might not be what it seems. A 2019 report from nonprofit conservation organization Oceana DNA tested more than 400 samples from 250 stores across the US and found that 20 percent of labels misidentified things like species and origin. Worse yet, a 2015 investigation by the Associated Press revealed that some fish on Walmart and Kroger shelves had been caught by forced labor.
COVID-19 only exacerbated the chance of unsavory activity. Typically, governments require independent observers to ride on vessels and verify crew are complying with regulations that stipulate the amount, size, sex, and species of the seafood. To avoid transmission of the virus on cramped crafts, however, many lifted the mandate. Without the usual eyes and ears on the water, it can be even easier for illicit catches to take place, says Global Fishing Watch CEO Tony Long. It’s unclear when observers will resume their duties.
Amid all this, the pressure to adopt traceability technologies is growing. Large, risk-averse retailers like Walmart and Kroger have, in the years since the forced labor revelations, begun adopting increasingly stringent sustainability requirements. “Some distributors who sold to restaurants are now trying to pivot to retail,” says Teresa Ish, senior program officer of the Walton Family Foundation’s environment initiative. The shift creates a tremendous opportunity for change. And it only increases the appeal of projects like SmartFish, which are intended not only to shorten the supply chain but also to demonstrate that consumers show more interest in fish that comes with a story attached.
For their part, home cooks have bolstered retail demand during the pandemic. Amateur chefs have historically avoided buying fresh fish because they don’t know how to prepare it, says Martin Exel, managing director of Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship, a collective of 10 of the world’s top seafood companies as well as academics. “It’s had a stigma,” he explains.
With time on their hands, however, consumers are getting more adventurous with their home-dining options. In Maine, for example, a group of fishermen who’ve adopted sushi-grade handling techniques have been able to secure high-enough prices to sell pollock and monkfish domestically instead of exporting it. Niceland Seafoods, a company that specializes in Icelandic imports, sold out of a shipment of wolffish (it’s kind of like catfish) in a Denver supermarket in four days. And frozen sales surged more than 50 percent around the beginning of COVID lockdown, according to industry publication Seafood Source.
It’s too soon to tell if armchair gourmands can absorb a significant amount of the supply that used to go to restaurants. Changing Tastes, a culinary consultancy, predicts that two-thirds of sit-down, full-service eateries will not reopen after the pandemic. But with both supermarkets and consumers showing a new appetite for fish—and for insight into the provenance of what they’re buying—Coronado and his group are well positioned to meet demand, and to do so at premium prices.
Aboard his blue-and-white panga, Guaymas co-op member José Francisco Mendizábal follows a new routine after he lands a grouper or yellowtail. He plunges a knife into the top of its skull, bleeds it, then places it in an ice-water bath—steps that help preserve flavor and texture. On shore, he scrubs down his vessel while SmartFish processors fillet and freeze the catch. By comparison, a gill-net fisherman outside the co-op would dump seafood in the bottom of a boat, leaving it to decay in the sun until it reached shore. Mendizábal’s methods may be time consuming and leave him with less yield, he says, but it’s worth it: Working with SmartFish will net the co-op 50 percent of the final price, more than double what they made before. The system, says Coronado, rewards them for their skills.
When COVID-19 first hit, demand for fresh fish from Guaymas plummeted, and the only commercial link left was SmartFish. The organization packages the co-op’s goods with a QR label pointing to details about where it was caught, by whom, and how. A Mexico City store sells the frozen, vacuum-sealed product and manages exports to the US, its yellowtail bound for San Francisco and Portland, Oregon. Sales jumped by 30 percent between March and May 2020.
SmartFish’s work in Guaymas is not an isolated example. Other communities have found a lifeline during the pandemic by using technology to replace disrupted supply chains. In South Africa, a smartphone app called Abalobi, developed by the University of Cape Town, has helped fishermen sell lobster directly to restaurants that have remained open. In addition to securing higher prices, they also record their catches—and therefore provide data that will help improve fisheries management. Future of Fish, a nonprofit that supports small-scale sea harvesters, jumped in to help Chileans build online markets to sell their hake, and it will soon test the Abalobi app there as well.
As their reach grows, technologies that shine light on the sources of seafood are sure to be good for both bottom lines and fisheries. Consider, for example, the Tuna 2020 Traceability Declaration—signed in 2017 by the biggest retailers, processors, marketers, traders, and harvesters—specifying that, to curb overfishing, companies must make all products fully traceable to the vessel and date on which they were caught and comply with government-mandated reporting. Since the effort began, the market for responsibly sourced tuna has doubled, and the proportion of sustainable tuna stocks has rebounded from a 2014 low of 14 percent to 28 percent.
“Traceability is critical to our ability to manage for resilience,” says Mark Zimring, director of the Large Scale Fisheries Program at the Nature Conservancy, which helps manage a group of ocean-roaming species that transcend national jurisdictions. “Two-thirds of global fisheries are overfished,” he says.
Emerging technologies offer opportunities for retailers as well as oversight bodies to monitor what’s happening. Conservationists are calling for onboard cameras equipped with artificial intelligence that can distinguish the weight and length of fish, as a replacement for absent human monitors. The European Union mandates the use of both electronic reporting and satellite tracking on vessels longer than 12 meters (39.4 feet) so government regulators can better keep an eye on populations.
In the Gulf of Mexico, Del Pacifico, a wholesaler of shrimp certified as fair trade, equips its boats with a solar-powered tracker from a company called Pelagic Data Systems. Each device monitors the craft’s movements via satellite; prospective customers can then enter a lot ID number to confirm, for instance, shrimpers were not in waters where endangered porpoises reside. Del Pacifico works with 1,500 stores, primarily in the United States—and retail has grown enough during the pandemic to cover the 25 percent of stock it would normally sell to restaurants. “Traceability helped us get more clients, and more high-end clients,” says founder and CEO Sergio Castro.
A growing number of efforts are joining the ranks of Del Pacifico in assuring consumers that fish are properly handled once they leave the water. Niceland Seafoods weaves sensor-equipped RFID tags into packaging to track temperatures. In New Zealand, the World Wildlife Fund has developed a blockchain-based system to embed information on the movement of wild-caught tuna on tags and link the data to a QR code.
Still, adoption can be slow. Some fishermen may be reluctant to embrace public tracking of their vessels out of fear it might tip competitors to closely guarded information, like, say, their favorite hotspots. Yet others find valuable upsides. In Peru, mahi-mahi and squid harvesters are using a World Wildlife Fund–backed smartphone app to create historical records of their performance, which will allow them to claim their fair share of the catch should the government impose quotas—as happened with anchovies, one of the biggest natural stocks in the world.
Ultimately, digital oversight could rein in what is essentially a Wild West offshore. A 2019 study in the journal Fish and Fisheries surveyed 100 electronic monitoring trials and 12 fully implemented programs, such as those in the EU, and found that the devices were cost-effective, offered better coverage of a fleet than human observers, and generated more data on the amount and specific location of fishing activity.
Helping the people on the boats adopt transparent, sustainable methods yields a fruitful synergy: more swimmers in the ocean, more cash in locals’ pockets, and better seafood on dining tables. Coronado, for one, takes pride in maintaining the heritage practices his co-op has used for decades, and sees COVID-19 as a window of opportunity to expand traceability—and with it, their business. Without those kinds of changes, the fourth-generation fisherman worries there won’t be a fifth to carry on the tradition. “We have to prove to people that working the way we do, it’s possible to support a family,” he says. “That it’s possible to live.”
This story appears in the Winter 2020, Transformation issue of Popular Science.
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Senate Republicans introduced a resolution Thursday to stop taxpayer funding of overseas abortions, challenging the Biden administration’s reversal of the Mexico City policy.
The American Values Act, introduced in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Sen. Jim Risch (R., Idaho) and cosponsored by Sens. Todd Young (R., Ind.), Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), Ted Cruz (R., Texas), and Rand Paul (R., Ky.), would block federal funds that pay for or promote abortions overseas. The legislation hopes to stop far-left groups that “hijack” public money for a pro-abortion agenda.
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“Pro-abortion groups are hard at work trying to hijack those tax dollars—not to protect our nation, but to perform or promote abortions around the world,” Young said in a press release.
An executive order from President Biden last Thursday reversed the Trump administration policy that prohibited taxpayer funding of overseas abortions. The reversal has implications for the ongoing Uighur genocide in Xinjiang, China. A 2017 White House report found federal funds contributed to coercive birth control measures there for the Chinese Muslim minority group.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a cop/legal drama drops everything it’s doing to cater to BLM propaganda and lies. Unsurprisingly, the ABC legal drama For Life is back to blatantly butcher the Jacob Blake case, all for the sake of Black Lives Matter.
The aptly-titled February 3 episode “Say His Name” kicks off with characters reacting to George Floyd’s death. Although this episode is supposed to take place at the start of the George Floyd protests, they should have been smarter than to heap more controversy onto an ongoing case with more than a few issues that prevent it from being what people called a “lynching.” Instead, we get a character remarking, “His knee was the noose, honey. Just got a new way to kill us now.” Sadly, it only goes downhill from there.
The story mostly follows the police shooting of Andy Josiah (Royce Johnson). According to his account, he was stopped for “driving while Black” and pulled out of his car for the police to investigate. His young son was sitting in the car and trying to get out, so he reached over the driver’s seat and was shot in the back in front of his kid. Now he lies handcuffed to a bed faced with the fact that he may never walk again.
If that story and the episode title weren’t clear enough, this account is basically the liberal rewrite of Jacob Blake’s shooting. However, instead of being an ex-felon allegedly violating a restraining order, trying to steal a car and kids that weren’t his, and holding a knife against police officers, Andy Josiah is a loving father with a devoted wife and two kids. It’s almost insulting how far the show goes to paint this figure as the victim. They even have the nerve for Andy to reference “genocide” and mournfully ask, presumably about white people, “What the hell’s their problem?” to which lawyer Aaron Wallace (Nicholas Pinnock) replies, “We exist.”
Andy: Only man I ever met stronger than you was my father. Glad he’s not here to see me like this.
Aaron: What happened wasn’t about you. You don’t gotta feel no shame or guilt. Alright?
Andy: Yeah, but certain things I looked forward to, you know? Picking up my son, swinging him around, even taking the trash out. Seems stupid, huh? I get it. But it made me feel like a man for my wife. I ain’t never gonna get to make love to her again. Man, you see how fine she is?
Aaron: You still got a lot to live for, Andy.
Andy: You know the question I ask every day?
Aaron: What’s that?
Andy: What the hell’s their problem? I mean, they got everything. Yet they still on some genocide mess.
Aaron: We exist.
I’ll tell you what the problem is for everyone. If innocent black people were really being systemically shot and murdered by racist white police officers, the BLM mobs would be able to find far better examples than Jacob Blake. Since the police aren’t genocidally killing black men, the most they can do is support felons fighting the police while lying about the details like this episode does. And if anybody questions that, they cry out “racist!” and lie more. That’s more than enough to be a problem.
Unfortunately, unlike Jacob Blake, Andy succumbs to his injuries and is eventually taken off life-support by his family. Nevertheless, Aaron vows to get Andy justice, remarking he “fought like hell, [t]hat’s what we need to do.” Apparently, the words “fight like hell” are no longer a call to violence since Aaron gets appointed as a special prosecutor to handle this case. That’s right, this plot will continue for multiple episodes.
Happy Black History Month to us all.
This program was sponsored by commercials from Taco Bell, T-Mobile, and Geico.
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