Archive | May, 2012

Orangutans At Miami Zoo Use iPads To Communicate « CBS Tampa

10 May

It’s their world too.

The 8-year-old twins love their iPad. They draw, play games and expand their vocabulary. Their family’s teenagers also like the hand-held computer tablets, too, but the clan’s elders show no interest.

The orangutans at Miami’s Jungle Island apparently are just like people when it comes to technology. The park is one of several zoos experimenting with computers and apes, letting its six orangutans use an iPad to communicate and as part of a mental stimulus program. Linda Jacobs, who oversees the program, hopes the devices will eventually help bridge the gap between humans and the endangered apes.

H/t Tyler Cowan.

via Orangutans At Miami Zoo Use iPads To Communicate « CBS Tampa.

An Inconvenient Lawsuit: Teenagers Take Global Warming to the Courts – Katherine Ellison – National – The Atlantic

9 May

Alec Loorz turns 18 at the end of this month. While finishing high school and playing Ultimate Frisbee on weekends, he’s also suing the federal government in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

The Ventura, California, teen and four other juvenile plaintiffs want government officials to do more to prevent the risks of climate change — the dangerous storms, heat waves, rising sea levels, and food-supply disruptions that scientists warn will threaten their generation absent a major turnabout in global energy policy. Specifically, the students are demanding that the U.S. government start reducing national emissions of carbon dioxide by at least six percent per year beginning in 2013.

Of course I’m glad the kids are doing this. But it’s also sad that they have to do it and that they’re the ones doing it, not their parents.

via An Inconvenient Lawsuit: Teenagers Take Global Warming to the Courts – Katherine Ellison – National – The Atlantic.

stump speech

8 May

if the stump could speak 
what would it say
if trees had standing in court
would they get their day
 
if each pol had to speak 
from an actual stump
would we be so quick
to put Nature in the dump

 — Charlie Keil

 

Grass Roots Organizer

8 May

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What Does Grassroots Mean Anymore? | Irregular Times

8 May

The idea of grassroots organizing is that it’s supposed to be supported from the lowest levels first, like the way that grass grows, without reliance on centralized organizations or large sources of support. In grassroots organizing, people who have little power individually can form networks together that cannot be easily defeated because even when one part of the organization is attacked, new shoots can rise up to fill in, just as grass roots run in a complex weave of long thin contributions from many different plants to occupy a large space. In a piece of genuine turf, individual roots aren’t growing to create some kind of predetermined shape. The strong mat of green that results from their work is a result of unpredictable growth that doesn’t have a pattern that’s easy to pick apart. Its strength is that it is a jumbled mess.

What George Soros and his wealthy fellows are doing is giving a big load of fertilizer to a group of organizations that grow more like trees. These organizations have a centralized trunk and root system, and without those centralized systems, the organizations will die. Cut them back from the top, and they won’t regrow. They haven’t grown spontaneously from a network of small individuals. They’re the results of single seeds that have grown individually large and powerful.

…Big media organizations such as the New York Times have lost touch with what genuine grassroots organizations look like. What these corporate news operations describe with the the term “grassroots” nowadays is rather like their own organizations: Designed for consumption by individuals, but only though a system of distribution controlled from the top down, powered by large payments from a few sources with a lot of money.

via What Does Grassroots Mean Anymore? | Irregular Times.

The Ron Paul Plot Thickens

8 May

Writing in Salon, Steve Kornacki reported that Ron Paul picked up a lot of delegates over the weekend, in maine and Nevada. Sorta.

Of course, not all of the Paul-ites who are winning delegate slots will actually get to vote for him at the national convention, since many are filling slots that are by rule designated for Romney. For instance, Romney’s overwhelming win in the straw poll that was conducted with Nevada’s February precinct caucuses guarantees that most of the state’s national delegates will be bound to support him on the first ballot. So Paul will actually have two types of delegates in Tampa: a relatively small group of delegates pledged to him, and a potentially much bigger group that wants badly to vote for him but can’t.

It’s that second group that is starting to make Romney’s camp, which sent its top lawyer to Maine for the convention this weekend, nervous. Romney-pledged Paul backers could try to change their states’ rules (or the rules at the national convention) to allow them to support Paul. But this probably wouldn’t work; the RNC is now threatening not to seat individual delegations that try this, and to pull it off in Tampa the Paul team would need an outright convention majority, something it’s not on course to have.

They could still stir up a lot of trouble, though. Even if they’re neutralized procedurally, Paul-aligned delegates could make their hostility to the GOP establishment clear during the convention’s prime-time hours. The potential for such an embarrassing, nationally televised spectacle is probably what the Romney team is most worried about at this point.

Ah, the Emperor has no clothes, is that Ron Paul’s role in this election?

 

Are We in the Midst of a Sixth Mass Extinction? – NYTimes.com

6 May

We’re on the precipice of mass extinction and we haven’t got a clue about the implications. Biological species do not live alone. They live in complex ecosystems. When a species goes extinct, an ecosystem is damaged.

The vast majority of living things that share our planet remain undiscovered or have been so poorly studied that we have no idea whether their populations are healthy, or approaching their demise. Less than 4 percent of the roughly 1.7 million species known to exist have been evaluated. And for every known species, there are most likely at least two others — possibly many more — that have not yet been discovered, classified and given a formal name by scientists. Just recently, for instance, a new species of leopard frog was found in ponds and marshes in New York City. So we have no idea how many undiscovered species are poised on the precipice or were already lost.

It is often forgotten how dependent we are on other species. Ecosystems of multiple species that interact with one another and their physical environments are essential for human societies.

These systems provide food, fresh water and the raw materials for construction and fuel; they regulate climate and air quality; buffer against natural hazards like floods and storms; maintain soil fertility; and pollinate crops. The genetic diversity of the planet’s myriad different life forms provides the raw ingredients for new medicines and new commercial crops and livestock, including those that are better suited to conditions under a changed climate.

We need to learn how to value ecosystems.

Benefits provided by ecosystems are vastly undervalued. Take pollination of crops as an example: according to a major United Nations report on the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, the total economic value of pollination by insects worldwide was in the ballpark of $200 billion in 2005. More generally, efforts to tally the global monetary worth of the many different benefits provided by ecosystems come up with astronomically high numbers, measured in tens of trillions of dollars.

These ecosystem services are commonly considered “public goods” — available to everyone for free. But this is a fundamental failure of economics because neither the fragility nor the finiteness of natural systems is recognized. We need markets that put a realistic value on nature, and we need effective environmental legislation that protects entire ecosystems.

via Are We in the Midst of a Sixth Mass Extinction? – NYTimes.com.

Wastewater Jitters in New York – NYTimes.com

5 May

As I report in Friday’s Times, disposing of the waste produced by natural gas drilling will become a larger and more contentious issue if New York State gives the go-ahead to horizontal hydraulic fracturing, which uses millions of gallons of fluids per well to release gas from the Marcellus Shale.

New York already deals with waste from about 6,800 active vertical and horizontal gas wells upstate. Although these wells require just a fraction of the water that would be needed for fracking in the Marcellus, they still produce waste that needs to go somewhere.

via Wastewater Jitters in New York – NYTimes.com.

Last Reactor of 50 in Japan Is Shut Down – NYTimes.com

5 May

Japan’s last operating reactor was taken offline Saturday, as public distrust created by last year’s nuclear disaster forced the nation to at least temporarily do without atomic power for the first time in 42 years.

The reactor, at the Tomari plant on the northern island of Hokkaido, was shut down for legally mandated maintenance, said its operator, Hokkaido Electric. As Japan’s 50 functional commercial reactors have been shut down one by one for maintenance, none have been restarted because of safety concerns since last year’s Fukushima disaster.

via Last Reactor of 50 in Japan Is Shut Down – NYTimes.com.

Plutocracy, Paralysis, Perplexity – NYTimes.com

4 May

For the past century, political polarization has closely tracked income inequality, and there’s every reason to believe that the relationship is causal. Specifically, money buys power, and the increasing wealth of a tiny minority has effectively bought the allegiance of one of our two major political parties, in the process destroying any prospect for cooperation.

And the takeover of half our political spectrum by the 0.01 percent is, I’d argue, also responsible for the degradation of our economic discourse, which has made any sensible discussion of what we should be doing impossible.

Disputes in economics used to be bounded by a shared understanding of the evidence, creating a broad range of agreement about economic policy. To take the most prominent example, Milton Friedman may have opposed fiscal activism, but he very much supported monetary activism to fight deep economic slumps, to an extent that would have put him well to the left of center in many current debates.

via Plutocracy, Paralysis, Perplexity – NYTimes.com.