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Cynthia Fernald's List: Science/Environment

  • Jun 20, 14

    New Hampshire's Great Bay

    • In the end, "the most important thing that happened in Seacoast New Hampshire was what did not happen," notes local historian J. Dennis Robinson '73, recalling the 1974 defeat of the oil refinery on SeacoastNH.com. Thanks to a miracle of timing and events--a determined young legislator who wasn't afraid to take on the governor, motivated citizens who threw everything into the fight, an upstart paper that helped to change history—nothing happened. But the Onassis chapter, as it turns out, was just the beginning of a much longer, more complicated, story—one whose ending has yet to be written.
    • What makes rational action on climate so hard is something else — a toxic mix of ideology and anti-intellectualism.
    • At this point, coal mining accounts for only one-sixteenth of 1 percent of overall U.S. employment; shutting down the whole industry would eliminate fewer jobs than America lost in an average week during the Great Recession of 2007-9.

      Or put it this way: The real war on coal, or at least on coal workers, took place a generation ago, waged not by liberal environmentalists but by the coal industry itself.

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    • It’s not only that Americans are more religious — Christian, in particular — but that for many, their beliefs in their religious text — the Bible, in particular — are literal.
    • What worries me is that some Americans seem to live in a world where facts can’t exist.

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      • Use of “global warming” caused more intense worry about the issue, particularly among men, Generation Y, Generation X, Democrats, liberals and moderates. For men, Generation X, and liberals, use of “global warming” produced greater certainty that it was happening; for independents, greater understanding that human activities are the primary cause; and for independents and liberals, a greater understanding of the scientific consensus.
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      • “Global warming” was also associated with events such as melting glaciers, world catastrophe and other extreme phenomena. “Climate change” was associated more with general weather patterns.
    • Use of “climate change” appears to reduce engagement on the issue for a range of subgroups across age, political and gender lines. These included Democrats, independents, liberals and moderates; men, women and minorities; and different generations.

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  • Oct 20, 12

    Bad news for Monsanto = good news for the rest of us, including farmers. Too bad the word isn't getting out.

    • So: combine crop rotation, the re-integration of animals into crop production and intelligent farming, and you can use chemicals (to paraphrase the report’s abstract) to fine-tune rather than drive the system, with no loss in performance and in fact the gain of animal products.

      Why wouldn’t a farmer go this route? One answer is that first he or she has to hear about it. Another, says Matt Liebman, one of the authors of the study and an agronomy professor at Iowa State, is that, “There’s no cost assigned to environmental externalities” — the environmental damage done by industrial farming, analogous to the health damage done by the “cheap” standard American diet — “and the profitability of doing things with lots of chemical input isn’t questioned.”

      This study not only questions those assumptions, it demonstrates that the chemicals contributing to “environmental externalities” can be drastically reduced at no sacrifice, except to that of the bottom line of chemical companies. That direction is in the interest of most of us — or at least those whose well-being doesn’t rely on that bottom line.

    • The Marsden Farm study points to a third path. And though critics of this path can be predictably counted on to say it’s moving backward, the increased yields, markedly decreased input of chemicals, reduced energy costs and stable profits tell another story, one of serious progress.
    • with the fossil-fuel industry, wrecking the planet is their business model. It's what they do."
    • for many reasons, efforts to put out prompt reports on the causes of extreme weather are essentially languishing. Chief among the difficulties that scientists face: the political environment for new climate-science initiatives has turned hostile, and with the federal budget crisis, money is tight.
    • A typical year in this country features three or four weather disasters whose costs exceed $1 billion each. But this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has tallied a dozen such events

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  • Nov 19, 10

    Apparently, Carl Hovland was right. Mild fear appeals can be effective, but strong fear appeals are not.

  • Mar 19, 10

    "...think of talent not as a thing, but as a process; not as something we have, but as something we do. "

    • “The Genius in All of Us,” which argues that we have before us not a “talent scarcity” but a “latent talent abundance.” Our problem “isn’t our inadequate genetic assets,” but “our inability, so far, to tap into what we already have.”
    • We’ve traditionally regarded superior talent as a rare and mysterious gift bequeathed to a lucky few. In fact, Shenk writes, science is revealing it to be the product of highly concentrated effort.

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  • Feb 04, 10

    "From 9/11 to the moon landing, how conspiracy theories have changed history -- and why we must fight back "

    • Why does it matter that these people are wrong? Shouldn't they be allowed to believe what they want? 

          

      I do think it actually matters what is true. The search for the truth is an important search, and if it isn’t, we’re lost in all kinds of ways. We’re lost in the fields of Holocaust denial. We’re lost in being able to compare what is good and what is bad because we can’t agree what actually happened. We’re lost when it comes to guarding minorities against populist agitation. Nobody’s going to die from saying Shakespeare wasn’t Shakespeare, but in other areas, when the truth suffers, our decision making suffers. When there is no authority to the truth, prejudices thrive.

    • We know that Google operates on an algorithm that tells you what’s popular, but it seems to be telling you what’s authoritative.

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  • Jan 26, 10

    "Controlling blood pressure just might be the best protection yet known against dementia."

    • Other dementia-preventing efforts, such as targeting the sticky amyloid plaques in Alzheimer's patients brains, haven't panned out so far - while hypertension control has little downside, notes Pittsburgh's Kuller.

      "Until I can tell you how to get rid of amyloid in your brain, take care of the blood pressure."

    • there are plenty of other reasons to lower blood pressure: Hypertension is a leading cause of heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure.

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  • Jan 13, 10

    As Jane Brody notes: "...the Mediterranean diet does not come in a pill or potion. You have to eat the foods to reap the rewards."

    • we are a long way from consuming the kind of diet most closely linked to a low risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke and dementia. That diet need not be strictly vegetarian, but it should emphasize plant-based foods over the meat and other products that come from animals that eat plants. The closer to the earth we eat, the healthier — and leaner — we are likely to be.
    • You have no doubt heard much about the so-called Mediterranean diet, and with good reason. This eating style, in its classic form, is most closely linked to a healthy body and mind as people age: a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. It is loaded with nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits, beans and grains, fish and shellfish, but relatively little meat and poultry. Olive oil is the primary fat for cooking and eating, even replacing butter as a smear on bread.

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    • a treatment plan called tinnitus retraining therapy. It combines counselling, to reduce the anxiety caused by the phantom sounds, with sound therapy, using a neutral background noise.
    • a treatment plan called tinnitus retraining therapy. It combines counselling, to reduce the anxiety caused by the phantom sounds, with sound therapy, using a neutral background noise.

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    • Sit on the floor with your legs stretched straight out in front of you, toes pointing up. Reach forward from the hips. Are you flexible enough to touch your toes? If so, then your cardiac arteries probably are also flexible.
    • What the researchers found was a clear correlation between inflexible bodies and inflexible arteries in subjects older than 40.

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    • The heirs of those who opposed Medicare are conjuring the same bogymen — only this time they claim to be protecting Medicare.
    • Indeed, these same arguments we hear today against health reform were used even earlier, to attack President Franklin Roosevelt’s call for Social Security. It was denounced as a socialist program that would compete with private insurers and add to Americans’ tax burden so as to kill jobs.

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    • Soda, pop, cola, soft drink — whatever you call it, it is one of the worst beverages that you could be drinking for your health.
    • one study discovered that drinking one or more soft drinks a day — and it didn’t matter whether it was diet or regular — led to a 30% greater chance of weight gain around the belly.

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