Impactfully No. 91: Contemplating Consciousness

A group of researchers suggests that a wider variety of animals have conscious experience, with potential implications on how we interact with the natural world. Plus, the FTC bans noncompete clauses to improve worker compensation and mobility.

Impactfully No. 91: Contemplating Consciousness
Photo by Rob Schreckhise / Unsplash

I come to you this week with the most philosophical topic we've ever had in the newsletter. There's a group of researchers from a variety of backgrounds – neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy – who are pushing the idea that a much wider variety of animals have consciousness. What would that mean for social and environmental impact?

Plus, I have a bunch of early-career opportunities on offer this week including the official rollout of the American Climate Corps. Turns out you don't need a lot of experience to get your start in climate action!

~ Greg

What we're reading

Biologists and philosophers have released a new declaration on animal consciousness which suggests that a wider variety of animals have conscious experience. (Quanta Magazine)

  • For a while, scientists have agreed that animals like apes may have conscious experience. What's striking about this declaration is that it asserts that consciousness could extend to vastly different species like cephalopods and reptiles.
  • If you suspend disbelief for a second, they're not suggesting that they have a consciousness as complex as ours, just that they may experience feelings. Even that is revelatory in its own way (and may invoke some reticence to, say, destroy habitats, relocate animals, or set that mouse trap).
    • If the evidence holds up, the ethical implications are significant. Conservation takes on new meaning, for example. Climate change extends its impacts to more stakeholders.
  • This is probably my favorite line though: "researchers may have overestimated the degree of neural complexity required for consciousness."
    • What even is consciousness? In the process of studying animal consciousness, maybe we'll learn something about our own.

The FTC has issued a ban on noncompete clauses that make it difficult for workers to leave their jobs and work for rival companies. (NYT)

  • If you've ever been subject to a noncompete clause, you know this is a big deal. These types of agreements incentivize people to stay at their jobs and can be viewed as anticompetitive behavior.
  • The hope is that this ruling gives people more flexibility in the job market. If employers have to do more to compete for talent and convince workers to stay, then workers should benefit: better wages, improved benefits, and so on.
    • I'm especially interested in how this affects workers in smaller cities where there may be fewer competitors and fewer people working for them.
    • Wages alone may not convince them to leave, but they shouldn't have to abandon the skills that made them successful in order to take on a new job.

Job of the week

Normally I feature a senior-level role as our job of the week, but this Sustainability Consultant role caught my eye because it doesn't require quite as much experience.

The associated company – Group14 based out of Denver – is focused on improving the sustainability of buildings. As a consultant, you'll be working alongside the construction process to prepare for LEED certification.

Group14 itself works out of a LEED Certified building and has a couple of social impact credentials: Certified B Corp and Just among them. If you have more experience in sustainable construction, check out their careers page for more opportunities.

Community roundup

  • Researchers are entering Phase III of a drug trial that uses mRNA technology to create an individualized cancer treatment designed to prevent melanoma recurrence. (Smithsonian Magazine)
  • The FCC has voted to restore "net neutrality" rules. If you're thinking wow, I haven't heard of net neutrality in a while, you're right: it has been about 10 years since the grassroots push to put those rules in place. (The Verge)
    • The premise is that ISPs should be considered common carriers that can't discriminate against the content traveling across their networks.
  • Harvey Weinstein's #MeToo conviction was overturned by the NY Court of Appeals which asserted that some of the evidence was outside the scope of the case and deprived him of a fair trial. (NYT)
  • Remember last year when Vermont saw record rains and flooding? The state legislature is now considering a "superfund" to address climate impacts. It would be funded by companies with a history of major greenhouse gas emissions, and it looks set to become law – it has significant support in the legislature. (Inside Climate News)
  • McKinsey & Company is under criminal investigation by the Justice Department for its role in the opioid crisis. If you're not familiar with McKinsey, they're a major consulting firm that helped boost sales of opioids. They've settled a number of lawsuits to the tune of almost $1 billion, but a criminal investigation is quite the escalation. (NYT)
  • Purdue University and the Indiana Department of Transportation have partnered on a wireless charging project on a major highway. The pilot project is designed to test if people could recharge EV batteries as they drive, with particular emphasis placed on electrifying long-haul trucks. (Inside Climate News)
  • What's better than a social enterprise? How about multiple social enterprises all working together out of the same space? In comes Place to B, a new co-working space in Portland, OR that specifically caters to B Corps, 1% for the Planet members, and other like-minded businesses. (Good Good Good)
    • As a soon-to-be transplant to the area (and pun aficionado), I'm going to have to check them out.

Hot job opportunities

Resource of the week

Remember a few issues back when I told you about how the American Climate Corps job board was scheduled to go live soon? The job board is now live, and you can browse over 250 opportunities already.

Based on my own search, I'd say this is intended for someone without prior experience in climate action. You'll find a bunch of opportunities whose job requirements are limited, making them a great option if you're early in your career or looking to change careers.

There are two potential limitations, however: given the limited job requirements, these aren't high-paying jobs, and they work more like a contract job such that you're employed for a limited period of time. For those reasons, I'd recommend using this as a jumping off point to another job. I do think this is a great way to get climate action experience on your resume though.

What do you think of the American Climate Corps? I'd love to hear your thoughts – just reply back to this email.

Test your knowledge

Last week, we took on one of the myths of homelessness in our trivia question. It turns out that 40-60% of people experiencing homelessness have a job – addressing the crisis is more complex than finding everyone a job, though a well-paying job is certainly a factor.

For this week, let's turn to a marketing tactic you've almost certainly come across in your daily life: "greenwashing" is a term used to describe companies acting disingenuously with regards to their environmental impact. I feel like I hear it more often than ever as "sustainable" and "green" become table stakes for running a modern business.

The concept of greenwashing has actually been around for a long time though. How long? That's for you to find out in this week's trivia question:

Who coined the term "greenwashing," and when was it coined?

Email me your guess, and I'll send one lucky winner a couple of One Work stickers!

I just wrapped up a week of dog sitting, and my dog would like to have veto power over any future sleepovers. You can find me on LinkedIn and Threads.

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Jamie Larson