Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category
Governments often do not like scientists, who in general deal in reality and not in ideology, so governments take steps to stop scientific communication. We’ve seen it in the Soviet Union, in Red China, in Florida (state officials doing planning cannot discuss global warming or climate change), in North Carolina (state laws restrict the amount of increase in sea level that can be used), and now in Canada. Stephen Buranyi writes at Motheboard:
A coalition of journalists and academics is urging Canadians to write letters to government scientists, asking for data on pollution, global warming, and other federal research. They may not get much in response—but that’s precisely the point.
The week-long letter writing campaign, which began on Monday and is called Write2Know, is a protest of the government’s controversial practice of controlling access to both science and scientists—a policy that has never been officially codified, but has been enforced by government agencies for the past half-decade.
Typically, requests sent to federal scientists by members of the public are instead directed to a media relations officer who determines how much access will be allowed. Sometimes interviews will be granted, while in other cases, the officer determines that a number of questions will be approved and passed on to the scientist via email. Scientists may have their responses cut and edited before being released.
The government’s media strategy isn’t clearly defined, and the extent of these muzzling tactics have mainly been pieced together from leaked reports and scores of denied or stalled information requests. But it appears that anyone, inside or outside Canada, attempting to communicate with a Canadian federal scientist for anything other than a scientific project, is subject to this oversight.
“If a journalist or academic writes to a scientist to ask for information they encounter these barriers. We want to walk people through the steps of inquiry to get the same response or non-response we would get,” said Dr. Natasha Myers, director of York University’s Institute for Science and Technology Studies, and one of the primary organizers of the Write2Know campaign.
From March 23-27, those who write letters will get to experience the frustration of dealing with a government intent on keeping its own research and data under wraps—when it isn’t doing everything it can to shut down the production and storage of data by cutting jobs and research funding, and closing libraries and archives across the country.
Journalists first noticed the walls that had been erected around federal scientists when media officers began limiting access in 2008. A pair of high profile incidents a few years later, in which climate change and fisheries data was withheld, sparked widespread outrage, and outraged letters: journalists wrote an open letter; academics wrote an open letter; foreign scientists wrote an open letter; and yet nothing about the policy has changed.
Writing a letter to the Harper government is like writing a letter to Santa: it’s unlikely it’ll ever get read and you just have to hope you get what you want. They’re also both really into arctic industrialization.
But the organizers of the Write2Know campaign say that their campaign differs from previous appeals launched by professional bodies in a very important way. “For us it begins with a public,” Dr. Myers said. “The reason we’re doing this as a letter writing campaign is precisely because we want to generate a public that is interested and informed enough to engage with research.” . . .
Information control of this sort is a hallmark of authoritarian government.
More info in this article.
Why government regulation is required to keep businesses in line—and even then it’s difficult.
If you build a big city in the middle of the desert, a city that features green lawns and lots of fountains, you’re going to need a lot of water. But you’re in the middle of a desert, where water is scarce.
Does anything about that seem crazy to you?
Edvard Petttersson reports in McClatchy:
Las Vegas is seeking to quench its growing thirst by draining billions of gallons of water from under the feet of ranchers whose cattle help feed the Mormon church’s poor.
A legal battle across 275 miles of treeless ridges and baked salt flats comes as the western U.S. faces unprecedented droughts linked to climate change.
The surface of Las Vegas’s main source of water, Lake Mead, is more than 100 feet below Hoover Dam’s spillways after reaching the lowest mark last summer since the dam was filled. As it seeks new sources, the city’s water supplier is waging a court fight over plans to suck as much as 27 billion gallons a year from the valley that is home to the Mormon ranch and its 1,750-head herd, as well as three other rural valleys.
Casino resorts, five of which are Southern Nevada’s largest commercial water users, labor unions and the developer of a 22,500-acre mini-city west of Las Vegas argue their future depends on the water supply that the church, Indian tribes and environmental groups say is needed by local communities.
The fight, likely to echo across the increasingly arid West, conjures up the Los Angeles water grab that turned the once prosperous Owens Valley into a dust bowl.
As cities including Denver and Phoenix look to secure water for growing populations and economies, the prospect of sustained droughts, more severe and sustained than any in the 20th century, looms over Nevada’s court battle, with one pipeline opponent calling it the “poster child” for future showdowns.
The 7,000-acre Cleveland Ranch, established in Spring Valley in 1873 by Maine native Abner “Old Cleve” Cleveland and bought in 2000 by the Mormon church, sits atop an aquifer a dozen-plus miles to the north of Route 50, known from postcards as “America’s Loneliest Highway.” . . .
Back in the 60s and 70s — which I, sad to say, actually remember — there was much talk about the disintegration of the black family and of African-American values more generally, and how that was the root cause of America’s poverty problem. And the social dysfunction was clearly real. But was it cause or effect? William Julius Wilson, in When Work Disappears, famously argued that it was a symptom: good jobs in inner cities, where African-American men could take them, went away, and the cultural changes followed.
So, how could you test that hypothesis? Well, here’s an experiment: change the structure of the economy in such a way that a large class of white men — say, white men without a college degree — similarly lose access to good jobs. If Wilson was right, we’d expect to see a sharp decline in stable marriages, a rise in unwed births, growing drug use, and other forms of social disruption.
And that is, in fact, exactly what happened: William Julius Wilson was right. Which makes it remarkable to see people look at that very evidence and say that it shows that the real problem isn’t money, it’s values.
David Brooks, in the column discussed at the link, provides an excellent example of fundamental attribution error.
And I’ve been so good about putting all our plastics into the recycling bin. See this disappointing article.
Why it’s difficult to respect the GOP: The House GOP passed a bill to forbid the EPA from getting expert advice from scientists
Because why? Because ignorance is good, I guess. Beverly Mitchell reports at Habitat:
While everyone’s attention was focused on the Senate and the Keystone XL decision on Tuesday, some pretty shocking stuff was quietly going on in the House of Representatives. The GOP-dominated House passed a bill that effectively prevents scientists who are peer-reviewed experts in their field from providing advice — directly or indirectly — to the EPA, while at the same time allowing industry representatives with financial interests in fossil fuels to have their say. Perversely, all this is being done in the name of “transparency.”
Bill H.R. 1422, also known as the Science Advisory Board Reform Act, passed 229-191. It was sponsored by Representative Chris Stewart (R-UT), pictured. The bill changes the rules for appointing members to the Science Advisory Board (SAB), which provides scientific advice to the EPA Administrator. Among many other things, it states: “Board members may not participate in advisory activities that directly or indirectly involve review or evaluation of their own work.” This means that a scientist who had published a peer-reviewed paper on a particular topic would not be able to advise the EPA on the findings contained within that paper. That is, the very scientists who know the subject matter best would not be able to discuss it.
On Monday, the White House issued a statement indicating it would veto the bill if it passed, noting: “H.R. 1422 would negatively affect the appointment of experts and would weaken the scientific independence and integrity of the SAB.” Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) was more blunt, telling House Republicans on Tuesday: “I get it, you don’t like science. And you don’t like science that interferes with the interests of your corporate clients. But we need science to protect public health and the environment.” . . .
The bill seems to me to be simply insane. I simply cannot grasp how any serious adult would sign on to that but this is how the GOP thinks.