Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ecological: Eco Worriers and Nimbys

Following the frankly pathetic spectacle of rampant self-interest and short-term thinking that masqueraded as the Copenhagen climate treaty talks, a round robin email popped up in my inbox. The subject line was: "If not us, who?" My immediate reaction was, well, not me, anyway. Really, I was feeling quite bad enough about the future without having the whole thing thrown back in my lap.
The thrust of the message could be summed up as "The politicians have let us down. Now it's up to ordinary citizens to take matters into our own hands". I am sure everyone who received the email had a similar response: we're all doomed. Because if there is one lesson we can take away from Copenhagen, it is that everyone wants to save the world, they just don't want to have to start in their own backyard.

Wangari Maathai has bags of energy to combat malaria

I am certain," Wangari Maathai once told me in a rare moment of despondency, 12 years before she won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, "that I was not born to spend my entire life in the front line, fighting battles which never seem to end."
Her depression was understandable enough. She had just come out of hospital after being mistreated in jail, into which she had been thrown for protesting against plans by the ruling party in Kenya to build its headquarters in Nairobi's main park. Days later, she was back in the wards, after being clubbed senseless by the police when she renewed her campaign.

Is the climate change movement splintering?

The climate change movement is dead, long live the climate change movement! was the proclamation made last week by Rising Tide North America, as green campaigners around the world begin coming to terms with the switchback ride of the last three months.
"A particular model of dealing with climate change is dying. It is revealing itself before the world as nothing more than a final scramble for the remaining resources of a planet in peril," states a quote from Naomi Klein at the beginning of the document, before stating:
Many in the climate movement have grown all too cosy with the status quo. The 'bold' action they call for will result in the privatisation of the air, to be divided up by mega-polluters. Their demands for carbon neutrality seek to offset our problems onto poor countries while the rich keep burning and consuming. Those who still cling to the old climate movement have committed themselves to a sinking ship.

Do climate change sceptics give scepticism a bad name?

In January a group of self-declared "sceptics" hit the headlines with an attention-grabbing publicity stunt. If you instinctively interpret that sentence as a reference to the battle-scarred topic of climate change, then it is a mark of how successfully those opposed to the scientific consensus on climate change have appropriated the term sceptic".
In fact, the event in question is the mass homeopathy "overdose" staged by the Merseyside Skeptics. Do the Merseyside Skeptics (and hundreds of other groups like them) share much common ground with the army of Freedom of Information requesters currently swarming around climate science databases? Or could it be that climate change sceptics are giving wider scepticism a bad name?

Top 10 climate change deniers

With the Heartland Institute's annual jamboree for climate deniers in full swing in New York here's my shortlist of people who have done most for the denialist cause - in playing card form.

Addressing the food versus fuel debate in Ghana

The lines between energy and agriculture are becoming more blurred. As science advances, the use of biofuels in most parts of the world has continued to increase. One thing that has gradually come to stay and is in recent times attracting significant foreign investment in Ghana is energy crops. The last four years has seen Norwegian, Brazilian, Dutch, Swedish, German and British firms all competing for farmland to grow energy crops in different parts of the country.

Climate science: Truth and tribalism

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It is the mantra of the courtroom, but it is also the motivating ideal of good science – as well as good journalism. The Guardian's special report into the leaked emails between climate scientists has revealed as many roughnesses, pimples and warts as any Cromwellian portrait. In and among (plentiful) electronic evidence of the University of East Anglia researchers going about their job diligently, we have uncovered an abject failure to ensure essential records were kept on Chinese weather stations, determined manoeuvring to exclude critics from leading journals and international reports, and suggestions of deleting potentially embarrassing correspondence with a view to evading the Freedom of Information Act.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Technology impacts on education

From the abacus to the Apple Mac, technology has constantly changed the way we learn.
In equal measure, the needs of education have provided the driving force behind some of our most significant technological innovations.
BBC World Service programme Digital Planet, explored three of the many unique initiatives in education technology.

Warning over salt levels in soup

Many soups sold in high street cafes and supermarkets may not offer the healthy option customers are seeking, a pressure group has warned.
Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash) said 25% of 575 types of soup it analysed failed to meet Food Standards Agency targets on salt content.
However, it said there had been a 17% drop in the amount of salt in ready-to-eat ranges since its 2007 survey.
Experts say high salt intake raises blood pressure and the risk of strokes.

Lessons to be learned from Haiti's tsunami

Through all the devastation, another small but deadly event in Haiti almost slipped under the radar.
Researchers have discovered that January's huge quake triggered a tsunami.
Along with four Haitian colleagues, Dr Hermann Fritz, a civil engineering professor from the Georgia Institute of Technology, US, travelled around the coast of Haiti gathering evidence about this wave.
He wanted to find out what had happened before the perishable evidence disappeared forever.

Kiss books goodbye, here's iPad

will know the form. First the reading, discussion and questions, then the book signing. Several people bring a book to be signed. Among them may be a man who slips several copies of your book out of protective plastic covers. He's probably a dealer. The easiest way to find out is to ask: "Who shall I sign it to?" A dealer will say in a rush: "Oh, nobody -- just your signature is fine."

A Face-Off on the Safety of a Drug for Diabetes

Three years ago, Dr. Steven E. Nissen, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, conducted a landmark study that suggested that the best-selling diabetes drug Avandia raised the risk of heart attacks. The study led to a Congressional inquiry, stringent safety warnings, a sharp drop in the drug’s sales and a plunge in the share price of GlaxoSmithKline, Avandia’s maker.
The battle between Dr. Nissen and GlaxoSmithKline was waged from afar in news releases and published papers. But on May 10, 2007, 11 days before Dr. Nissen’s study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, he and four company executives met face to face in a private meeting whose details have not been disclosed until now.

It’s sex or no degree – students

students hundreds of rands to pass their degrees will be investigated.
Victims have told university authorities that they were victimised because they did not want to align themselves with a “corrupt demand”.
Students said they were failed because they did not pay their lecturer or accede to his demands for sexual favours.

HIV can be held in check in five years

THE global Aids epidemic could be contained within five years by testing everybody in high-risk regions and immediately treating all those who are found to be HIV-positive, according to a leading scientist.
Universal therapy with anti-retroviral drugs would not only save millions of lives but would also prevent transmission of HIV by making people who carry the virus less infectious, said Dr Brian Williams, of the South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis .

How to decline Facebook friends without offence

A colleague I just met at work has invited me to be their friend on Facebook. I don't want to offend them, but nor do I want to share my candid photos and lousy Scrabble scores with someone I hardly know. "Can I be your friend?" might work as an ice-breaker among small children, but it's not a question you hear often between adults, at least not outside of Las Vegas.Friendship, it is generally understood, is a relationship that evolves through shared interests, common experiences and a primeval need to share your neighbour's power tools.

FCC seeking more spectrum for wireless broadband

WASHINGTON – Federal regulators are hoping to find more wireless spectrum for mobile broadband services by reallocating some airwaves now assigned to television broadcasters and others.
Under a long-awaited proposal outlined by the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday, broadcasters and other existing spectrum holders would voluntarily give back some spectrum and share in proceeds raised by government auctions of those airwaves to wireless companies.

Obama, Republicans clash at heated health summit

With tempers flaring, President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans clashed in an extraordinary live-on-TV summit Thursday over the right prescription for the nation's broken health care system, talking of agreement but holding to long-entrenched positions that leave them far apart.
"We have a very difficult gap to bridge here," said Rep. Eric Cantor, the No. 2 House Republican. "We just can't afford this. That's the ultimate problem."