Monthly Archives: March 2009

The comedian and the financial expert

Jon Stewart, at his best, took down yet another bastion of tele-punditry on the Daily Show last week – not just Jim Cramer, but the entire CNBC financial TV network! What does it say about our society when a comedian gets the workings of the financial markets, and tells it like it is, while a whole network of financial “experts” marches happily right off the cliff? Here’s the entire brilliant interview, in 3 parts, and its really worth watching (even for ecologists) for the insight it provides into the workings of some of the institutional pillars of the US economy. Would that the rest of the mainstream media did their job as well as this comedy show does in 22 min 4 days/week…

Coupled Human And Natural Systems – a class discussion

Heather Hanlin wrote the following summary of our class discussion on Feb 17th:

ResearchBlogging.orgWe discussed two different papers: “Coupled Human and Natural Systems,” by Jianguo Liu et al (2007), and “The Effects of Human Socioeconomic Status and Cultural Characteristics on Urban Patterns of Biodiversity” by Ann Kinzig et al (2005). The “Coupled Human and Natural Systems,” are referred to as CHANS. CHANS are ways to incorporate humans and the natural environment interactions, so that social-ecological and human interactions and their effects can be better understood and used to predict future effects. These results can be applied to such topics as government and environmental policy. The paper was very information intensive and had a lot of jargon, which made it a bit difficult to grasp the paper in it’s entirety, but the topic is of great importance and much can be gained from integrating all the areas covered including: the organizational, spatial, and temporal couplings of CHANS; their direct and indirect interactions, from local to global scales, and from simple to complex patterns and processes.

Historically they have been viewed at a more local scale, but now trying to integrate more of all the levels, from local, regional, continental, to global. There are three types of CHAN couplings: organizational, spatial, and temporal. Within the organizational couplings there are reciprocal effects, for example a power plant does not always just deplete the surrounding environment but there can be a lush preserve right alongside it, and feedbacks. There are indirect effects within organizational couplings, for example in making plastics the energy required to produce them and dispose of them, as their production requires petroleum. The emergent properties of organizational couplings are the results from the interactions, and not the products of pure nature or pure social aspects. The vulnerability of the organizational couplings, are its ability to deal with changes. The threshold of organizational couplings are how much change they can handle until they can no longer return to their original state, and their resilience is how well they can recover from the damage caused by the change (back to point A).

There are three levels of spatial couplings. The first looks across spatial scales, for example world trade. The second looks beyond boundaries, which includes what is shipped out of the area from which the products originated. For example, most American companies claim to recycle and properly dispose of electronics such as computers, but on many occasions we ship these products to other countries for them to sort out. In a sort of out of sight, out of mind mentality. These companies use other countries lax environmental laws to get around our more rigid, slightly more environmentally friendly ones and to save money. This is still polluting the planet, but we pay less attention when it is in out own back yard. The third looks at heterogeneity.

Temporal couplings have several aspects, which include: 1) a massive increase in the human impacts on the natural systems, 2) rising natural impacts on humans, 3) legacy effects, for example our stopping of naturally burning forest fires, 4) time lags, for example the CFC’s used in aerosol cans, 5) increasing scale and pace, meaning the exponential increase of the number of people in the world and the advancement of transportation technology has allowed people to go across the globe in a matter of hours, and 6) escalating indirect effects, for example invasive species brought around the globe by people.

All of the implications from the conducted studies point toward a need for change in policy. They stated that a change in view from “humans conquer nature” to “humans co-evolve with nature” is required. Our own class could not agree on where we fall within this wide spectrum. Not a whole lot of policy in the government reflects a view of “humans co-evolving with nature.” The general public needs a paradigm shift in order to change their views. We need to view the economy as a steady state, instead of needing constant growth. Our current economic system expects to see growth every year, and if we viewed it as a fluctuating system we may actually view our limited resources as what they are, limited resources. We are headed in the right direction but we need to change our view of scale and look at not only the local but integrate the localàstateà countryàglobal interactions as well.

The localization of policy design is important to CHANS, and they need to be looked at in a very context specific manner. We need to address the details of the system, and not just the overall system. We need to think in terms of an abstract local area, and not just a geographically local area. Management systems need to be dynamic, and appropriately adapted to the details of the system. We need to understand the system in order to be able to push the system in a particular direction, and shape its future. If we looked at the infrastructure as fluctuating and not static, the interactions within the system, and how will small scale decisions affect the larger scales we would realize how much there is to be aware and conscience of.

Some of the necessary approaches discussed were: 1) maintaining margins of safety for uncertainty, for example people that live on the coast, 2) factoring in insurance as a hedge against disaster, and 3) ensuring adaptive mechanisms. The challenges and opportunities included linking coupled human and natural systems across scales, utilizing more integrated tools, comparative studies and portfolios are needed, collaborations among all fields of relevant coupled natural systems, for example more interdisciplinary studies in academic institutions, and getting beyond the “Ivory Tower,” so that whatever the outcome the applications must be practical. CHANS are rapidly changing, and you need to know more on the multiple scales.

The second paper: “The Effects of Human and Socioeconomic Status and Cultural Characteristics on Urban Patterns of Biodiversity,” discussed how species richness in urban areas is also affected by socioeconomic and cultural factors, and additional incorporation of these factors could improve current urban species richness predictors. Humans are increasingly altering the landscape, and cities are one example of how we modify the surface of the earth. Most people living in urban areas will only experience the natural world by what is in their city environment. Cities can host quite a wide variety of species, and we need to better understand the interactions that involve our socioeconomic and cultural influences on these interactions. The traditional paradigm uses a “gradient approach,” which searches for regular patterns of biodiversity relative to gradients of land use, distance form the urban center, or human population density. They looked at urban patterns of diversity across a gradient. The scale is important, for species, location, etc. since the definition of urban vs. rural varies. They tested this theory in Phoenix, Arizona by using avian and plant diversity within neighborhood parks and residential areas. They did find that by including the socioeconomic and cultural variables does add information for determining species richness in an urban setting. Of course not all patterns of urban biodiversity are affected equally, and they spilt these up into bottom-up and top-down influences. They separated the patterns into four categories: 1) perennial plant diversity in parks is affected by top-down processes, 2) perennial plant diversity in neighborhoods is affected by bottom-down processes, 3) bird diversity in parks is affected by more top-down than bottom-up processes, and 4) bird diversity in neighborhoods is affected by more bottom-up than top-down processes (since birds are mobile avian diversity is more complex). They predicted that the more bottom-up influences would be affected by the socioeconomic and cultural influences, and as predicted they found plant diversity in neighborhoods were most affected, plant diversity in parks was least affected, and avian diversity in neighborhoods and parks was intermediately affected. They did find that by including the socioeconomic status the sensitivity of determining biodiversity increased, and that integrating this information into the traditional methods only improves their predictive ability.

Income captures a lot of socioeconomic variables, which is why the median income was used. This has strong inference for environmental justice issues, since top-down government choices for city planning in parks may be biased by the socioeconomic status of the surrounding community. There may be more plant diversity in higher socioeconomic communities, as indicated by a study conducted in Brazil. If most people living in cities experience nature by what is in their urban setting, and there is less diversity in a lower socioeconomic neighborhood that implies that they are experiencing an environmental injustice. People in these areas may be less concerned about environmental issues regarding topics they themselves are not experiencing. If they are experiencing a very limited view of the world, an attitude change will be much harder since it is outside their area of influence and they aren’t being exposed to the natural environment. Birds can also be indicators for environmental health status as well. There is definitely a need for more studies of urban ecological relationships, especially since the global population is increasing the most in urban areas.

Citations:<

Liu, J., Dietz, T., Carpenter, S., Folke, C., Alberti, M., Redman, C., Schneider, S., Ostrom, E., Pell, A., Lubchenco, J., Taylor, W., Ouyang, Z., Deadman, P., Kratz, T., & Provencher, W. (2007). Coupled Human and Natural Systems AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, 36 (8), 639-649 DOI: 10.1579/0044-7447(2007)36[639:CHANS]2.0.CO;2

Kinzig, A.P., Warren, P., Martin, C., Hope, D. and Katti, M. (2005). The Effects of Human Socioeconomic Status and Cultural Characteristics on Urban Patterns of Biodiversity Ecology and Society, 10 (1)23. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol10/iss1/art23/

A student’s take on Reconciliation Ecology

I am catching up with student writings in my various classes, and thought I should start sharing pertinent material here, from the Reconciliation Ecology graduate class. Chris Miles shared the following thoughts a few weeks ago, after one of the first class discussions:

The following response to the class discussion presents my ideas on reconciliation ecology and how we might undertake these types of projects. Please feel free to make comments.

It appears that all the species of the earth could be placed into great jeopardy if “one” of those species cannot change the status quo. That “one” species is referring to the most dominant species on the planet, humans. If humans never existed, the earth today would look very different. Humans have had a tremendous impact on this planet, some believe more so than others. However, clearly human activity is responsible for the extinction of many species. Much of the “destruction” can be attributed to the lifestyle of man. Unfortunately, this lifestyle will be hard to change, and I believe we should not have to give up our modern conveniences. There is no doubt that man can augment their lifestyle in a way that is beneficial to both themselves and the world around them.

So far, humans have took it upon themselves to ease their conscience and attempt to save as many organisms they can by setting aside special land (reservations) for them to live. Humans have also taken existing land and reformatted it (restoration) into a state that is considered more “natural” for the desired organisms to live. While this has seemed to appease nature for now, these practices alone will not be able to sustain the diverse life forms of the earth. Eventually the earth will loose this diversity, and the environment will be forever altered.

Looking towards the horizon, a new way of thinking has surfaced in the scientific community. Instead of trying to fence off the world’s diversity of life into little islands, humans may be better off if they learn how to better live with that diversity. If man and nature (all organisms) can learn to coexist with each other then we might be able to save nature (reconciliation). Man has taken a lot of land for itself to use as they saw fit. I believe it is clear we should not try to take that land away from man. This is part of the idea that man should not have to sacrifice their entire way of life. Instead, a more responsible approach would be to allow nature to also benefit from the same land. If this can be done in away that does not effect man’s usage of that land, then more people will be willing to try it.

Until man gives up the need to acquire wealth, money and the cost of things is still very important. If man decides to augment his land in a way that both sides get their use out of it, it must be cost effective. Man needs incentives or a clear view of profit before they decide to tackle something. Most people watch out for themselves first before worrying about some thinning species of a bird. If augmenting land for shared use can be done without causing a large financial burden, people will be willing to get on board.

These kinds of projects would be best managed locally. If local communities would come together and help promote threatened species in their area, I believe a lot of good could be done. Now, this requires the participation of all the local communities in the country. In other words, these projects will be additive. If every community is responsible for just the threatened species around them, collectively all those species would have been addressed. Looking forward, every country could do this. Unfortunately, due to the governments and the economics of many foreign counties, a task like this would be impossible. Man cannot take care of nature if they have not figured out how to take care of themselves. Never the less, several foreign countries (especially the countries of Europe) could implement similar plans. I stress adapting local environments to better accommodate local species because it would not be worth while if some community in California thought it would be a good idea to save the African Elephant. That last example is overboard, and no one would really do that, but I wanted to stress that communities should take on reasonable projects.

One example I want to reference concerns the loggerhead shrikes. I like this example because it nicely shows the cost aspect to these reconciliation projects. Installing fence posts enabled the birds to have a place to perch as they hunted for food. As this perching aspect was stumbled upon, these people found a very cost effective way to attract more shrikes to their property, and increase species numbers. The cost to the rancher is very small, as cheap wood can be found. The labor aspect can be minimized because these post don’t have to be buried too deep (they on;y have to support a bird). Also, if the rancher can use scrap wood he happens to have, the cost can be reduced further.

Looking more at the cost of reconciliation projects, if land owners can find solutions that are not only cost effective, but can actually make them money, more people will take on these projects. Its very hard to persuade a business owner to do anything that will cost them money that wont provide a return. Unfortunately, there is going to have to be some cost if we want to undertake these projects. The important thing is, how can land owners recover from that cost. Reducing costs can come in other forms to, however. If a farmer wants to find a way to attract a bird species into his fields, some cost will be spent. That farmer can make up that cost if the birds he attracts eats a local insect pest. The savings, will be in that the farmer will not have to spend money on chemicals. Some things the farmer will consider include; would it be cheaper just to use chemicals; and when the birds are brought in, do they introduce any negative consequences (like destroying the crop). If the organism brought in to eat the pest becomes a pest themselves, defeats the whole process.

Undertaking these kinds of reconciliation projects will take a lot of planning and trial and error. I believe that some of our best solutions will arise from experimentation and chance occurrences. One important concept to understand is, how do we make our land enough like the target organism’s but still retain its usefulness to man. I would like to end on saying that we need to stop looking backwards. Trying to restore the planet to a state how it existed in the past will ultimately be self defeating. I just cannot see anyone forcing people to make unreasonable concessions. I don’t want to tell someone what car they should drive. Instead, man needs to look forward, and decide the best ways it can coexist with its neighbors in nature.

Restoring the San Joaquin Delta shouldn’t be Fish V. People

via Fresno Audubon comes notice of this lecture at the Fresno downtown library next month, about the crisis in the San Joaquin Delta, which (like so many other environmental dilemmas) is falsely perceived as being about Fish vs. People:

Fish V. People: The False Dichotomy-Free EventThe False Dichotomy-Free Event:

“Thursday, April 23 – 7 p.m.

Fresno Downtown Library – 2420 Mariposa St

Sarah McCardle Room

A talk about the collapse of the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta. Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, the Campaign Director for Restore the Delta will discuss the consequences, causes, and proposed solutions of Delta collapse. Barbara is one of the leading advocates for a fishable, farmable, swimmable, and drinkable Delta.

About Restore the Delta: Based in Stockton, California, Restore the Delta works in the areas of public education and outreach so that all Californians recognize this region as part of California’s natural heritage, deserving of restoration. Restore the Delta advocates on behalf of local Delta stakeholders with government water agencies to ensure that water management decisions will protect and benefit local Delta communities. We encourage local Delta residents to undertake actions to ensure the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta’s sustainability.

For more information contact Brandon Hill at 559.978.2369/ bhill968@gmail.com

Hope to see you there!”

I may miss it because I have to give a talk in UC Riverside that day – but you should go, especially if you live anywhere in the Delta catchment!

Why is the senate holding up important science appointments?

Even as the Obama administration continues to roll back many of the Bush era restrictions on science, and rebuilds the firewall insulating science from ideology, there remain political roadblocks. Paul Ehrlich, in a letter circulated on Ecolog-L today, raises concern over procedural holds placed in the senate on the confirmation hearings for Jane Lubchenco ((Past President of ESA) as NOAA Administrator, and John Holdren (AAAS past president) as White House Science Advisor. Here’s Ehrlich’s letter:

Dear Friends,

Sad to say, internal Senate politics is delaying confirmation of the most important science appointees — and it may not be Menendez who many of us contacted last week. See http://scienceblogs.com/authority/2009/03/science_advisor_and_noaa_admin.php. I called Harry Reid’s office. He had been very helpful with the CCB’s Nevada Biodiversity Initiative and I mentioned that when I talked to a staffer about Reid breaking the logjam. The staffer said she would pass the message on (I’m not holding my breath).

At this point in history we badly need good scientists doing what they can to avert catastrophe. Holdren can advise Obama but cannot run the OSTP until confirmed, Lubchenco is in limbo. I hope you will all, scientists or not, will contact Reid (info at url above) and ask that he end this sad delay.

PLEASE FORWARD THIS LETTER TO ANYONE YOU THINK MIGHT HELP.

Thanks.

Best.

Paul

Paul R. Ehrlich

Bing Professor of Population Studies

President, Center for Conservation Biology

Department of Biology, 371 Serra Mall

Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-5020

So any US citizens reading this and interested in rebuilding science in your country, please contact your senators and urge them to stop dithering and confirm these appointments already! Mike Dunford, who is following developments closely, has more:

Initial reports indicated that holds had been placed by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), in an attempt to gain leverage for an unrelated issue. Later in the week, new reports suggested that there were multiple holds on the nominations. On Friday, both Talking Points Memo and Climate Progress reported – apparently independently – that Senator Menendez did not, as of that point in time, have any hold on any science nominee. They report, however, that the nomination is still being held up.

As I’ve already said – possibly to the point of inducing tedium – the scientific community needs to keep pressure on the Senate. There are so many other things going on in Washington right now that this issue is not going to get much more attention from the traditional media than it already has.

With no known culprit for the holds, the single best place to focus attention is going to be Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office. Holds or no holds, he can schedule a vote on these nominees. Contact information can be found below the fold. Please take a minute or two to contact him and ask him to schedule a vote so that we can get these nominees on the job.

Here’s the contact information, including the email form and the Nevada address of one of his Nevada offices:

Email (web form)

DC Phone Number: 202-224-3542

Nevada address and phone:

600 East William St, #302

Carson City, NV 89701

Phone: 775-882-REID (7343)

Fax: 775-883-1980

Dawkins on those who would expel him from Oklahoma

In these hard and worsening economic times, one would think that politicians and state legislatures have their hands full with a huge number of serious issues to deal with. Instead, one congressman in Oklahoma is upset about a mild-mannered English (as in from England, not of) professor visiting a state campus to deliver a lecture! Who might that professor be? Why Richard Dawkins, of course, who got State Representative Thomsen upset enough to propose a formal resolution to condemn Dawkins’ visit to University of Oklahoma last friday! Really?! So what did the good professor have to say when he did arrive in the good state? Watch:

Meanwhile, as Dawkins’ US tour continues, even into the heart of the bible belt as in this case – we here at Fresno State have something else to look forward (backward?) to: Ben Stein is coming to campus next week! Yes!! That’s who is the featured guest this month in the University Lecture Series! Weep, my fellow Darwin’s Bulldogs… and if you do go to his talk, please ask him who is being “Expelled” from academia, exactly?

Hat-tip: OneGoodMove

Mysteries in the Kingdom of the Blue Whale

KingdomOfTheBlueWhale.jpgMy daughter and I just previewed (as did Kevin Zelnio of Deep Sea News) National Geographic’s new documentary “Kingdom of the Blue Whale” premiering tonight at 8:00 PM on the NatGeo channel here in the US. The girls (3 and almost 9) were skeptical at first, especially because it had interrupted something else they were watching while waiting for brunch, but really got into it as the story unfolded. The younger one – no surprise – loved it whenever they actually showed the creatures underwater, culminating, of course, in the amazing first-time-ever footage of an infant Blue Whale. That comes at the end, of course, but the story leading up to it is quite fascinating too, told as it is in two intertwining threads which gradually pulled in 9-year old Sanzari:

One strand follows biologists tagging and tracking the whales from the California coast all the way into the warm tropical “nursery” of the Costa Rica dome (watch the show to find out what a “dome” might mean in the ocean), trying to solve the puzzles of their life-cycle, which is surprisingly poorly understood for the largest creatures on the planet! Sanzari, who spent a year in the field with her mom studying another charismatic yet elusive (and much smaller!) mammal, the Slender Loris, in the forests of southern India, could relate to the challenges of tagging the whales, but couldn’t quite imagine tracking them across half an ocean! Tough to scale up from tracking the tiny lorises, hard enough to track in their several hectare sized home-ranges, to creatures occupying half of the world’s biggest ocean!! She therefore enjoyed it when the biologists got their payoff after months on the ocean, including sad episodes when they found whales dead from being hit by ships!

Intertwined with this is a second thread which follows researchers investigating the whale meat market in Japan, using undercover operatives and portable genetics labs set up in hotel rooms! Exciting stuff, especially when they teamed up with a local female biologist who posed as a regular shopper to obtain samples from the whale meat market; and when they hung up the “do not disturb” sign on their hotel door to set up the portable genetics lab to extract DNA from the samples. What Nancy Drew fan wouldn’t want to do such investigative work? Although we did wonder why the biologists weren’t simply collaborating with Japanese scientists to analyze the samples in a proper lab?! What’s the story there?

The whale-meat trade itself provoked some anger in the girls (carnivorous though they both are), with the sushi-loving Sanzari fuming all the way through about the Japanese and the Icelanders who wouldn’t stop hunting whales! The genetic findings from one sample were even more intriguing to me… but I better not give that away before the show airs, eh? If you can’t wait, or don’t get the channel, check out this clip on the show’s website.

What I can’t resist giving away, however, is this money-shot at the end, when the first team finally caught up with a mother and infant:

I am simply amazed that we share our planet with such magnificent creatures – and also that we know so little about even some of the largest living animals! And I hope we can find ways to ensure that my girls’ generation, and future ones too, get the opportunity to see the Blue Whales thrive once again.

The back channel on Kashmir

Last night (while doing the dishes as usual) I caught a fascinating interview on the Fresh Air podcast with Steve Coll of the New Yorker, talking about the back channel negotiations apparently engaged in by the Indian and Pakistani govt. several years ago that almost led to a settlement to the dispute. As someone who spent a wonderful summer doing field research in the Kashmir valley, I fervently hope for a lasting settlement of the hot-n-cold war festering over that beautiful territory between our countries. But I have to wonder how close India and Pakistan actually were to a settlement in 2007 – especially given what has transpired in the recent path. Were we really as close to resolving it as Coll says? And if we got close then, what’ll it take to bring the parties back to that point and indeed all the way to a lasting deal? Seems pretty unlikely right now. no? Yet, one positive development is that the terrorist attacks on Mumbai, now acknowledged even by Pakistani officials to have originated in that country, did not provoke a knee-jerk military escalatory reaction from India. Hope lies, perhaps, in that Indian govt/’s restraint, and in the much more tenuous hold on power that its recently elected counterpart has in Pakistan.

In the interview, Coll also offered some good insights into the fraught history of the region, and the bind Pakistani politicians find themselves in if they try to unravel the complex ties that bind their military / intelligence services to the jihadi groups that they have helped spawn (often with US help) for decades, and now appear to have lost control over. Perhaps someone reading this has a better, more closer-to-ground perspective on this, for I’ve been far removed from Kashmir for two decades now – but I found myself agreeing with most of what Coll said. Except, of course, he (or Terry Gross perhaps) skirted right around the topic of Americans’ own culpability; perhaps his article addresses it better.

You can listen to the interview on NPR’s Fresh Air site, or download the podcast via iTunes. Coll’s New Yorker article, published this week, prompting the interview, is available only to subscribers, so I’ll have to find it in the library or bum a copy off a colleague – but they do offer an abstract (below the fold). Meanwhile, I’m getting nostalgic just thinking about the lovely Dachigam valley, just outside of Srinagar (capital of Kashmir), where I spent a whole summer chasing birds – but my nostalgia is also tinged by images of army convoys driving into the valley, past the bus that was carrying me and my fellow researchers out after a successful field season. How I would love to be able to visit there again!

A Reporter at Large: The Back Channel

ABSTRACT: A REPORTER AT LARGE about back-channel negotiations between India and Pakistan over the disputed region of Kashmir. Two years ago Pervez Musharraf, who was then Pakistan’s President and Army chief, summoned his most senior generals and two Foreign Ministry officials to review the progress of a secret, sensitive negotiation with India, known to its participants as ‘the back channel.’ For several years, special envoys from Pakistan and India had been holding talks in hotel rooms in Bangkok, Dubai, and London. Musharraf and Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India, had encouraged the negotiators to seek what some involved called a ‘paradigm shift’ in relations between the two nations. The agenda included a search for an end to the long fight over Kashmir. The two principal envoys, Tariq Aziz and Satinder Lambah were developing what diplomats refer to as a ‘non-paper’ on Kashmir which could serve as a deniable but detailed basis for a deal. By early 2007, the back-channel talks on Kashmir had become ‘so advanced that we’d come to semicolons,’ recalled Khurshid Kasuri, who was then Pakistan’s foreign minister. Details for a visit to Pakistan by Singh were being discussed. Neither government, however, had done much to prepare its public for a breakthrough. Tells how domestic unrest in Pakistan contributed to the postponement of the summit. Musharraf slipped into a political death spiral and resigned in August of 2008. Mentions the periodic funding by India and Pakistan of guerilla or terrorist violence on each other’s soil. Describes the Mumbai attacks of last November 26, which were apparently coordinated by the Islamist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba and the concession by Pakistani officials that the attackers appear to have come from their country. India reacted to the attack with relative restraint, though many Indian politicians continue to call for military action. Writer visits the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and interviews Atta Muhammad Khan, who tends to the graves of about two hundred unknown young men in a village there. Gives a brief history of the dispute over the region and the shifting approaches taken by India and Pakistan to the dispute through the years. Writer interviews N. N. Vohra, the governor of Jammu and Kashmir, and then travels across the border to meet with Nawaz Sharif, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan. Tells about the events preceding the back-channel talks and the potentially catastrophic results of an escalation in hostilities between the two nuclear powers. Discusses in more detail the process of the back-channel negotiations. Writer visits the regional headquarters of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the educational and charitable organization that, depending on how you see it, is either the parent of or a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba. He is given a tour of the grounds by Mohammad Abbas, also known as Abu Ehsaan. Considers America’s role in Indo-Pakistani relations and how relations between the two countries bear on the war in Afghanistan. Writer attends a reception in Washington, D.C., for Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf says that he always believed in peace between India and Pakistan and that an agreement ‘would have benefited both.’”

God, Darwin, and the Culture Wars – Ethics Center Lecture

Today, at noon, the Ethics Center Lecture series @ CSU-Fresno will plunge into the culture wars with the following lecture:

March 4: Leonard Olson, God, Darwin, and the Culture Wars

12-12:50 PM in the Alice Peters Auditorium (in the University Business Center)

Most observers would agree that there is something like a cultural war taking place in America today, especially over the question of the origins of life on Earth. Is the choice as simple as one between evolution or creation? Extremists on both sides frame the issue poorly. As a result, a reasonable middle position is ignored. This talk will examine the middle and criticize the extremes.

Leonard Olson is a Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at CSU-Fresno, where he has been teaching ethics courses since 1986. A native of the Central Valley, he was educated at San Francisco State and U. C. Davis.