Our oceans are dying!

The proportion of the world’s oceans defined as “dead” – containing such low levels of oxygen that very little marine life can survive – has increased alarmingly in the past 70 years, scientists have warned. The researchers, from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Centre, among other institutions, studied dead zones both in open waters and around …

Continue reading ‘Our oceans are dying!’ »

Are the super-rich uncaring?

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the richest part of Europe, recently held elections for the borough council. The elections were believed to be unpredictable because of a terrible tragedy that had occurred last year, where a public housing tower block called Grenfell Tower burnt down, killing 71 people. The tower burnt because it …

Continue reading ‘Are the super-rich uncaring?’ »

Wildlife crisis again: Arctic ice melt is killing birds and leaving caribou stranded

The ongoing loss of sea-ice cover is wreaking havoc on ecosystems across the Arctic, and may spell the end of more species than previously thought. Arctic sea-ice cover shrank last year to the second lowest summer level ever recorded, following an unprecedented winter low, threatening species that rely directly on sea ice, like ivory gulls. …

Continue reading ‘Wildlife crisis again: Arctic ice melt is killing birds and leaving caribou stranded’ »

Where do good and evil come from?

Philosophers have long wrestled with the nature of good and evil. Are they an inseparable duality? Are some things inherently good or evil? These questions seem too abstract to be answered by science. But by asking questions such as “why are animals altruistic?” and “why do chimps sometimes violently kill one another?”, biologists have arrived …

Continue reading ‘Where do good and evil come from?’ »

The end of liberal democracy and humanism? (Part 1)

According to Yuval Noah Harari, in his book “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” there is new challenge to liberal democracy. It’s primary roots lie not in ideology but in bioscience and information technology. He sugesrs that in the 21st Century “the train of progress is pulling out of the station – and this …

Continue reading ‘The end of liberal democracy and humanism? (Part 1)’ »

Can we trust these new technologies?

Last century, we trusted machines to do things for us; this century, we’re starting to trust them to decide things for us.  Humans have a notoriously patchy record when it comes to decision-making. But relying on technological systems to make decisions for us – especially when risks are involved and our safety is at stake …

Continue reading ‘Can we trust these new technologies?’ »

Epicurus and American Exceptionalism

Contrary to the insinuations of the American Right, most US liberals are not anti-patriotic, or even unpatriotic. The vast majority are proud Americans. Where most sensible people draw the line is between American patriotism- a simple affinity with the American state and its people- and American Exceptionalism, or the belief that America is uniquely important …

Continue reading ‘Epicurus and American Exceptionalism’ »

Best of the Week #3

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/6/16/15810524/senate-ahca-explain-please. If anyone ought to be able to explain the American Healthcare Act, it should be senior Republican senators. Vox asked them what the bill is meant to do. Their responses are wildly varied and totally lacking in detail. An important and frightening story! http://www.conservativehome.com/highlights/2017/06/outsiders-are-not-always-good-and-governments-are-not-always-bad.html. A book review of the rise of the outsiders, and …

Continue reading ‘Best of the Week #3’ »

Learning about climate change, (1 of 2 posts on climate change)

A comprehensive survey of science teachers at middle and high schools across the US, conducted by the journal “Science”, finds that teachers generally devote a paltry 1 to 2 hours to the topic of climate change, and despite the fact 97 per cent of experts agree climate change is mainly human-caused, many teachers still “teach …

Continue reading ‘Learning about climate change, (1 of 2 posts on climate change)’ »

Wild animals are dying off

Global wildlife populations are set to fall by more than two-thirds since 1970 by the end of the decade, warns the Living Planet report by WWF and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). The assessment of more than 14,000 populations of 3706 species of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles from around the world reveals …

Continue reading ‘Wild animals are dying off’ »

Ripping out the smoke detectors even as the house begins to burn

“We seem intent on blinding ourselves, ripping out the smoke detectors even as the house begins to burn”.  (Bill McKibben, founder of climate change campaign 350.org, in Wired magazine, February 2017) And this is from Tom Engelhardt, who produces Tomgram: “The the most unforgivable of crime of all , is about to be wrought by …

Continue reading ‘Ripping out the smoke detectors even as the house begins to burn’ »

Let us all thank messy eaters

Researchers at the Arizona State University Institute of Human Origins have found that our species’ first ancestors began to climb down from trees to retrieve snacks they had dropped. Anatomical evidence from the 6-million-year-old fossilized remains of Sahelanthropus peinaó—which was unearthed earlier this year in South Africa and is now believed to be the last …

Continue reading ‘Let us all thank messy eaters’ »

The Moon, the Earth and our profligacy

Last night I was gazing at the bright sliver of tropic moon in the evening sky, reflecting on the fact that that moon, and somewhere on Earth a similar reflection of the sun upon it, have been in existence for nigh on three billion years, month in, month out. Our earliest ancestors witnessed the same …

Continue reading ‘The Moon, the Earth and our profligacy’ »

The despoilation of the agribusinesses

The world’s biggest palm oil agribusiness is destroying rainforests in Indonesia to make way for palm plantations — even though it’s against the law.  Last month, one of Wilmar International’s suppliers was caught bulldozing crucial rainforest in the Leuser Ecosystem, an important. wildlife habitat and the last place on earth where you can find endangered …

Continue reading ‘The despoilation of the agribusinesses’ »

Water full of drugs

Water re-use means we are all consuming a cocktail of other people’s leftover medicines, but measuring their impact is almost impossible. A recent analysis of streams in the US detected an entire pharmacy: diabetic meds, muscle relaxants, opioids, antibiotics, antidepressants and more. Drugs have even been found in crops irrigated by treated waste water. It …

Continue reading ‘Water full of drugs’ »

Some good news, and then some not-so-good news, for 2017

Genetic and stem cell technologies are on the cusp of letting us clone even infertile endangered animals when intact DNA is available. And some extinct species could be brought back by tweaking the genome of a living close relative. It should also be possible to engineer lost traits into a population. Some targeted animals are …

Continue reading ‘Some good news, and then some not-so-good news, for 2017’ »