Profits versus Science (Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher)
This past week I read two thought-provoking articles that address the general public’s conflicting views about science—and scientists. According to John Michael Greer, the growing number of science deniers, notably on the conservative side of the political spectrum, is most likely the confusing result of contradictory reports by research scientists (in a variety of fields), particularly “experts” funded by major corporations, organizations, foundations, or wealthy individuals.
In other words, there’s a noticeable growing distrust of scientific findings, largely based on legitimate concerns. It’s widely recognized that much research appears to be motivated by profiteering, rather than serving worthy altruistic causes, including the goal of improving health and wellbeing for all life forms.
Distrust or skepticism of published research data and recommendations exists in many fields, including nutrition, pharmaceuticals, climatology, medicine (think vaccinations), energy, harmful recreational substances, education, economics, the military, and, well, practically everything.
In short, the quest for money, power, and fame rules the hearts and minds of some scientists, those who sell their expertise to the highest bidder. Of course, the proportion of “bad scientists”” is dwarfed by the multitude of “good scientists” who love and pursue their work diligently, often without sufficient recognition and funding, but deeply motivated by altruistic intentions and an unbiased search for truth.
Easing the public’s widespread mistrust will require restoring faith and trust in science, the scientific method, and scientists. To accomplish this goal, at least three initiatives are needed: 1) the public needs to gain greater understanding and appreciation of science by becoming more informed; 2) the scientific community needs to work at developing better public relations, by providing more information about scientific procedures and accomplishments; and 3) political leaders, in collaboration with the scientific community, need to develop greater transparency about funding sources, as well as establishing clearly regulated guidelines.
For a fuller understanding of this issue, please refer to Greer’s article, The View From Outside (Enlightenment section). Another article, GMO Science Deniers: Monsanto And The USDA (Environment section), provides a cursory overview of “profits versus science”, in relation to genetically engineered crops. Finally, you can cap off this study by listening to an informative 30-minute broadcast interview: Naomi Oreskes On “Merchants Of Doubt (Equality section).
ENVIRONMENT (• Natural Resources • Wildlife • Climate)
> Common Dreams: A Global War On Nature And The Politics Of Extinction (William deBuys). Uncounted species — not just tigers, gibbons, rhinos, and saola, but vast numbers of smaller mammals, amphibians, birds, and reptiles — are being pressed to the brink. We’ve hardly met them and yet, within the vastness of the universe, they and the rest of Earth’s biota are our only known companions. Without them, our loneliness would stretch to infinity.
> The Washington Post: The Melting Of Antarctica Was Already Really Bad. It Just Got Worse (Chris Mooney). 2014 might be remembered as the year we first learned that great ice sheet of West Antarctica has irreversibly destabilized, thus setting in motion more than 10 feet of sea level rise. Meanwhile, 2015 could be the year of the double whammy — when we learned the same about one gigantic glacier of East Antarctica, which could set in motion roughly the same amount all over again.
> Occupy.com: Justice Must Flow: Economic Democracy And The Water Commons (Matt Stannard). The water crisis has nothing to do with the actual availability of water. Instead, the culprit is local communities’ inability to control their wealth, their common resources, their institutions of lending and credit.
> On Earth: Alberta’s New Water Pollution Policies Would Let The Tar Sands Industry Off The Hook (Clara Chaisson). Tar sands mining companies divert millions of gallons of water every day from the Athabasca River to process bitumen, and more than 99 percent of that contaminated water never goes back to the river. Along with toxic sludge, it is held in giant, high-leakage waste lagoons (tailing ponds).The Alberta government has introduced tougher rules, but pollution will likely continue.
> Huffington Post: GMO Science Deniers: Monsanto And The USDA (Andrew Kimbrell). It’s time for our government to require real and rigorous science in regulating GE crops, to say “no” to these herbicide-promoting crops, and prevent the looming agronomic disaster they will inevitably cause. When hearing about “GMO science deniers” — think of 70 million acres of super-weeds and diseases caused by a growing use of herbicides; think Monsanto and its enablers at the USDA.
ENERGY (• Carbon Based • Renewable)
> Resilience: The Global Coal Boom Is Going Bust: Report (Mike Gaworecki). A new report by CoalSwarm and the Sierra Club provides compelling evidence that the death knell for the global coal boom might very well have rung some time between 2010 and 2012. CoalSwarm data compiled of every coal plant proposed worldwide for the past five years shows that for every coal plant that came online, plans for two other plants were put on hold or scrapped altogether.
> ENSIA: Beyond Keystone XL: How To Win The War On Climate Change (William H. Schlesinger). I stand with those who recommend a carbon tax that would make it uneconomical to market the tar sands oil in the United States, shifting our attention away from fossil fuels in general and focusing our attention on renewable sources of energy. A carbon tax would be a fee paid anytime a pound of CO2 is emitted to the atmosphere from fossil fuels — coal, oil and natural gas.
> MPR: Mndot: 326K Live Within Oil Train Evacuation Zones. MnDOT reports that five to seven trains of crude oil pass through the state daily, each carrying about 3.3 million gallons of oil. Fears of a potential disaster have grown in recent years as the numbers of train cars shipping Bakken crude has jumped in the past few years.
> Resource Insights: Cheap Oil, Complexity And Counterintuitive Conclusions (Kurt Cobb). The chief intellectual challenge of our age is that we live in complex systems, but we do not understand complexity. How can cheap oil be a harbinger of future supply problems in the oil market? Here’s where complexity, history and subtle thinking all have to combine at just the right intellectual temperature to reveal the answer. [Cheap oil may be indicating a period of austerity, not abubance.]
ECONOMY (• Finances • Commerce • Global-Local)
> Yes! Magazine: Change The Story, Change The Future: A Living Economy For A Living Earth (David C. Korten). A new book by YES! Co-founder David Korten challenges readers to rethink their relationship with Earth. In order to survive and flourish, Korten argues, we must stop thinking about Earth as a mere source of raw materials, and embrace the understanding that we humans are part of a living Earth, and we need an economy that works in co-productive partnership with Earth.
> Local Futures: The Global Economy’s “Impeccable Logic”(Steven Gorelic). Does morality have any place in conventional economic thinking? While the overseers of the global economy are beginning to see problems with the wealth gap, it’s for reasons that are neither moral nor ethical, but purely practical: extreme inequality, they fear, might threaten the continuance of the system itself.
> Time: Don’t Trust The Markets: A Correction Is Coming (Rana Foroohar). Every time the Fed says it will keep rates low a little longer, the market party goes on. All that means is that there will be more pain, eventually, when the punch bowl gets pulled away.
> Financial Sense: Fed Loses “Patient,” Wall Street Says, “I’m Cured!” (Bill Fleckenstein). The question then becomes at what point will the stock market start to sink, and when will expectations for it, the economy, and the dollar all change? As noted, we can’t know that in advance, we can only react to change once it occurs.
ENLIGHTENMENT (• Expectations • Ideas • Beliefs • Psychology)
> The Archdruid Report: The View From Outside (John Michael Greer). The corruption of science by self-interest is an old story, and unfortunately it’s most intense in those fields where science impacts the lives of nonscientists most directly: medicine, pharmacology, and nutrition. [Scientists accepting pay for promoting products and services provided by corporations negatively affect how non-scientists (general public) think about science, and the majority of honest scientists.]
> Resilience: Naomi Oreskes On “Merchants Of Doubt (Alex Wise, Naomi Oreskes, Sea Change Radio) The same playbook that was used by tobacco companies to hoodwink the public is now being applied to climate change. The book Merchants of Doubt inspired a recent documentary film by the same name.
> Peak Prosperity: Things Are Unraveling At An Accelerating Rate (Charles Hugh Smith). Every attempt to further expand debt-based consumption is yielding diminishing returns: net income is stagnant virtually everywhere in the bottom 95% of the populace, and further declines in interest rates are increasingly marginal as rates are near-zero everywhere that isn’t suffering a collapse in its currency.
> CASSE-The Daly News: Adjusting The Fifth To A Finite Planet, Part II [Part 1 here] (Eric Zencey). Three avenues by which Takings case law could be adapted to the reality of a finite planet: 1) change the default by changing the definition of what constitutes a reasonable investment expectation; 2) change the default by promulgating the notion of an ecological servitude; and 3) acknowledge that value in land is created as an externality of decisions made by others, and compensate accordingly.
> Weathering the Storm: The Cyber Blitzkrieg (Michael Conley). The perfect storm is being shaped by a broad base of economic, energy, environmental, behavioral and geopolitical forces on a collision course. Cyber-warfare changes the geopolitical equation by providing smaller forces with an asymmetric capacity to ”level” the playing field.
EQUALITY (• Equity • Health • Social Concerns)
> The Atlantic: Is Minneapolis The Best City In America? This excellent video, produced by PBS News Hour, gives a brief overview that demonstrates why the Twin Cities area is widely recognized for progressive qualities that are attractive to young people (especially millennials). But the growing poverty and lack of opportunity among non-whites—an increasing proportion of the population—is a challenge that must be addressed—politically, socially, economically, and educationally.
> Ecology: Walking: The Secret Ingredient For Health, Wealth, And More (Jay Walljasper). The 2013 Walking Summit marked the birth of a new walking movement committed to: encouraging everyone to walk more; and boosting policies, practices, and investments that make communities everywhere more walkable. It was convened by the Every Body Walk! Collaborative
> The Washington Post: In 23 States, Richer School Districts Get More Local Funding Than Poorer Districts (Emma Brown). Nationwide, states and localities are spending an average of 15 percent less per pupil in the poorest school districts (where average spending is $9,270 per child) than they are in the most affluent (where average spending is $10,721 per child).
> Leaving Babylon: Logic Of Power II (Vera Bradova). A good type of power is often spoken of as “power-to.” Looking at the uses of power specifically within social settings, however, there appear to be two other kinds of power: power-over, the ability to force others to do one’s bidding against their will, and power-with, the use of power together with others in a variety of voluntary, collaborative ways. Much of the malfunction of “this civilization” has to do with its heavy-handed reliance on power-over.
ENGAGEMENT (• Goals • Activism • Solutions)
> Ecological Gardening: Hedgerow Hypotheticals: Our Cities And Suburbs Need Hedgerows Too (Adrian Ayres). There is a crying need for vastly more “bits of nature” in the form of all kinds of gardens, large and small, utilizing native plants and natural, ecological gardening practices, and even more of a need for vastly increased “connectivity” in the guise of hundreds if not thousands of miles of hedgerows of one sort or another, bordering properties, acting as living fences, and sheltering gardens.
> Low-Tech Magazine: How To Keep Warm In A Cool House (Kris De Decker). Modern comfort standards don’t recognize the freedom to actively move throughout a space in search of thermal comfort, although this could have profound consequences for energy use while maintaining thermal comfort, according to researcher Michael Humphreys and two of his colleagues in “Adaptive Thermal Comfort: Principles and Practice”.
> e360.Yale: Designing Wetlands To Remove Drugs And Chemical Pollutants (Carina Storrs). Drinking water supplies around the world often contain trace amounts of pharmaceuticals and synthetic compounds that may be harmful to human health. One solution being tried in the U.S. and Europe is to construct man-made wetlands that naturally degrade these contaminants. A full-scale, 380-acre constructed wetlands at the site, called the Tres Rios Wetlands provides a model system.
> Yes! Magazine: Depaving Cities, Undamming Rivers—Here’s How We’re Undoing The Damage (Diane Brooks). All around the United States, people are stepping up to help a damaged planet heal. Here are seven positive initiatives.
EVENTS AND INFORMATION
> MN350: Action Projects. Several are planned for this spring, including meetings related to Tar Sands, divestments, climate change, energy legislation, teach-in/solutions workshop, and oil shipping. See info on the MN350 website: http://mn350.nationbuilder.com/ ; Also see: Calendar of events, Community meetings, Campaigns, Join an action teams
> Mississippi Watershed Management Organization: Spring Water & Energy Stewardship Workshops for Congregations, Thurs., Mar. 26th, 6-9 p.m., 2522 Marshall St NE, Mpls. (Lowry and Marshall Ave NE). Free! RSVP (http://tinyurl.com/aforsrsvp). Learn more (www.afors.org/congregations; Sean Gosiewski, Alliance for Sustainability: 612-250-0389; firstname.lastname@example.org)
> St. Catherine University: Rediscovering The Promised Land: Revitalizing Our Urban Communities. Speaker, Majora Carter, an urban revitalization strategy consultant; Thurs., April 9, 7 p.m., O’Shaughnessy auditorium, St. Paul. Free tickets (The O’Shaughnessy Box Office).
> Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Monthly Meeting (First Saturday), April 4th, 10 a.m., JoJo’s Rise and Wine Cafe 12501 Nicollet Ave., Burnsville (Dakota County). Info:
> Midwest Solar: Midwest Solar Expo 2015, May 13-14, Hilton, Minneapolis. Info: Midwest Solar Expo 2015