Monthly Archives: March 2007

Ah, the driving force of scientific inquiry

PZ Myers updates this xkcd comic about how scientists think differently from normal persons, to better approximate reality. And I think you graduate students will appreciate the addition PZ makes at Pharyngula. Nothing like these little insights to bring graduate students closer to their professors, don’t you think? 🙂

Bio Blitz Project Proposal From JLS

Blogger Bio Blitz Proposal for HWY 168

I want to participate in the Bio Blitz Project, but I particularly wanted to sample the terminal point of HWY 168 in the Sierra Nevada’s (and maybe Dr. Crosbie’s property). I know the first proposal is a long way away but I still want to drive up there, as far as the weather and climate may permit, or do a transect of several sites on HWY 168. If any of you have anything to say about this please leave a comment.

Important meeting

Hey Everyone,

We (those of us in reconciliation ecology and biogeography) have decided to meet on Wednesday, April 4 at 6pm in Science 211 to discuss our footprint project.

Because the CCRS is Thursday, April 12 (right after spring break), we need to finalize some preliminary results (trend data in the variables we have discussed). Greg will look up any conversion factors he may come across in “Our Ecological Footprint”; however, I think we should also delve into the literature and see if we find anything.

Check out these very relevant publications:

Can City and Farm Coexist? The Agricultural Buffer Experience in California

Urban Development Futures in the San Joaquin Valley

Craig, Karl and Vanessa hope you can make it.

Because Science Never Sleeps: Greed vs Morality

Response to the Troll’s Opinion (Anonymous comment to the previous post on global warming), expand and read the post below.

Whether or not global warming is occurring is a matter of opinion, hopefully your opinion is based upon the evidence that is presented and your interpretation of it, not someone’s else view. So far from my understanding, I happen to believe that global warming is occurring, along side the degradation environment at a global level. However, regardless of my opinion or yours (whom ever), conservation and environmental protection are actually moral issues. These issues are blind to religion, and are based on standard practices of just being a decent person.

The issue of global warming, in most part if not all is based on the carbon emissions caused by the combustion of fossil fuels. Even if it was discovered those fossil fuels cause no change in the atmospheric environment, we as a global society need to reduce the amount of oil based products we use daily. The reason is quite simple, the amount of crude oil that is left in the Earth is limited, and there is not doubt about this. It may last between 10 or 100, or even 1000 years (very unlikely) more. However, due to this uncertainty WE ALL need to help in the effort to conserve this limited resource. This is not an issue of foreign versus domestic oil; it is an issue pertaining to the world as a whole. The same thing goes for the environment, it is a limited resource which must be conserved not destroyed and over used, like it was something going out of style.

Hopefully, what you get out of reading this short editorial is that conservation/protection of the environment is not a political issue it is an issue of doing the right thing. The simplest analogy is this: Oil consumption is like a buffet at a wedding, restaurant, etc. When you go to the trays you don’t extend your arms to the side and tell the rest of the patrons that you are not going to allow them to eat until you’ve had your fill of the top 2 or 3 items. Instead, you go up to the table(s), serve what you think you can eat and the other people do the same. Oil comsumption is the same, it is something that you should be utilizing only to satisfy your needs not your wants (which will never be met, just like in economics).

Global Warming Is Not a Crisis!

I learnt last night that that beloved liberal media darling, NPR, staged a debate that convinced a number of people that Global Warming Is Not a Crisis! So we can all go home now.

This was part of a new series of Oxford Style Debates NPR is bringing home to its audience in its new program Intelligence Squared U. S., available for download as a podcast at the website. I caught a few minutes at the end of the above debate broadcast on KVPR last night on my way home from our class (did anyone else in class hear this also?) – just a couple of the closing statements, including one by Michael Crichton, and the remarkable result of the concluding poll of the audience which found that the number of people in support of the proposition (that Global Warming is not a crisis) went up from 30% to 46% with a corresponding decline in opponents.

Now such a public debate (even if it is tagged with the name of Oxford) is no way to settle any question in science, of course, but it is likely to have some impact on public perception of the scientific debate (if there even is any). And since winning these debates relies more on rhetorical skills than on more mundane things like, oh, you know, doing some actual science (collecting data, conducting experiments, testing hypotheses, and similar tedious activities), they tend to be popular with deniers of science, e.g., Intelligent Design advocates (remember the great Fresno Oxford Debate about Darwin last year?), and, of course, climate change deniers. I’ll withhold my judgment on the new NPR show for now, and you can listen to this one (and others, including one about whether America is too damn religious) to make up your own minds.

What got my skepticism meter buzzing about this particular debate was the composition of the debate panels – in particular the inclusion of the pulp writer Michael Crichton, clearly the least qualified to talk about this subject on either side. But hey, didn’t he write a big fat sci-fi novel, with plenty of footnotes (which makes it more science-ey, don’t it?), about how global warming is a conspiracy by environmentalists? And didn’t he have an MD in a past life? So that must make him equivalent to any practicing scientist then, from any field! I wonder how much his presence alone swayed all those in the audience who turned around to start favoring the proposition – but he did display considerable rhetorical skill, sowing plenty of doubt about global warming, even while posturing as a rational skeptic who was “kind of stranded here” because scientists had not demonstrated to his satisfaction “that CO2 is the contemporary driver for the warming we are seeing”.

So that settles that, doesn’t it? And we can stop worrying about “the planet having a fever”, right?

Now this is really acting locally while thinking globally

Speaking of Ecological Footprints, here’s a radical attempt by one family to reduce their footprint, blogged at No Impact Man. There was a story about this family experiment in the House and Home Section of the NYT last week. Apart from media attention, and attending discussion of individual level measures we can take to reduce our impacts, how much of a difference do you think this will make to larger scale (let alone global) environmental issues? How effective are individual life-style changes are likely to be as opposed to larger-scale institutional / social changes? Further, how well do you think will such an experiment work in a place like Fresno?

The EF calculation procedure

This is what I read about determining the calculations for Our Ecological Footprint.

“As previously explained, the EF concept is based on the idea that for every item of material or energy consumption, a certain amount of land in one or more ecosystem categories is required to provide the consumption-related resource flows and waste sinks. Thus, to determine the total land area required to support a particular pattern of consumption, the land-use implications of each significant consumption category must be estimated. Since it is not feasible to assess land requirements for the provision, maintenance and disposal of each of the tens of thousands of consumer goods, the calculations are confined to select major categories and individual items.”

That was the first paragraph for the calculation procedure of a EF. It states just what we’ve mentioned in class – that we need to find our resource estimates for our area before we can do any calculations. The book does give good examples on what we should take into consideration(food, transportation, services, housing, and consumer goods) as well as examples on how calculations should be done. By skimming through, I can tell that we’re going to be doing lots of calculations!

Jim