29 August 2013

What City of the Size of Hartford CT Didn't Exist in June 2012?

This photo was published in the 26 August 2013 issue of the New Yorker. The population of the Za'atari refugee camp in Syria is 120,000 persons -- the population of Hartford, CT. 

Photo credit: Moises Saman (credit on p. 49).

09 August 2013

Number from the Sea of Cortez: Approaching Zero. Turtles, that is.

Leatherback Turtle (credit: Wikipedia Commons)
The August 2013 issue of Harpers (@harpers) features a grim assessment of the world's fisheries. Featured in the stories told by Eric Vance (@erikvance) are a brief history of turtle exploitation in the Sea of Cortez (the Gulf of California):
In 1962 alone, fishermen pulled 186 tons of turtles out of a single bay, the Bahia de Los Angeles. In the early 1970's, Kino lobster divers made a strange discovery. During the winter, the reptiles lazed on the seafloor, barely moving for months. Thus began a decade-long bonanza as divers picked thousands of turtles off the ocean bottom. . . By 1982, the turtle population in the Bay had declined by 96 percent. By 1990, when Mexico announced a nationwide ban on turtle fishing, they were nearly extinct.
Parts of the Sea are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites, but conservation enforcement and local economic pressures have contributed to dimming prospects for the specialized ecosystem supported in the Sea. (Article pay wall). The importance of this particular slice of ocean seems unassailable:
Jacques Cousteau once called the Sea of Cortez the "Aquarium of the World," citing both its extraordinary variety of life and its accessible bounty. In many ways, the sprawling sea is the world's ocean writ small. The west is deep and rock; the east, shallow and sandy. In the Upper Gulf, temperatures can swing from chilly in the winter to hot and tropical in the summer. The water is crystal clear in some places, murky in others. It hosts an astounding 950 fish species, 10 percent of which are found nowhere else in the world, including the world's most endangered marine mannal -- a diminutive porpoise call the vaquita ("little cow").

04 August 2013

Republican EPA Administrators to Congress: Act on Climate Change

Republican Former EPA Administrators (via Wikipedia Commons)
Not too many years ago, there was serious talk of "cap and trade." For those who missed out, that was WashingtonSpeak for a proposed federal emissions trading system that some believed could lead to reduced carbon emissions - mainly carbon dioxide emissions. Then party polarization set in, with Republicans moderate on climate change issues beset by more conservative candidates. There were other contributing factors.

Not only has talk of  "cap and trade" evaporated, but no action on climate change has since been taken by the U.S. Congress. In an August 2013 op-ed in the New York Times, the four former agency heads collaborated on a statement that included:
Climate change puts all our progress and our successes at risk. If we could articulate one framework for successful governance, perhaps it should be this: When confronted by a problem, deal with it. Look at the facts, cut through the extraneous, devise a workable solution and get it done. 
We can have both a strong economy and a livable climate. All parties know that we need both. The rest of the discussion is either detail, which we can resolve, or purposeful delay, which we should not tolerate. 
Mr. Obama’s plan is just a start. More will be required. But we must continue efforts to reduce the climate-altering pollutants that threaten our planet. The only uncertainty about our warming world is how bad the changes will get, and how soon. What is most clear is that there is no time to waste.


While there is greater concern in the Republican party for the effect immigration reform might have upon future electorates, it is possible that some in the party do not wish to be identified with an antiscience perspective. The latter, clearly antithetical to a pro-business, pro-technology view, similarly puts basic science funding at risk.

Shown in the photos are Christine Todd Whitman, William Ruckelshaus, William Reilly and Lee M. Thomas.