Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Climate Pledge from Europe

Environmental & Science Education
Climate Change
Edward Hessler

The next president of the European Commision, Ursula von der Leyen who previously served as German defense minister, was elected to this office on 16 July, 2019. She succeeds Luxembourgish politician Jean-Claude Juncker who served as president from 2014 to 2019.

In von der Leyen's opening remarks, summarized in this short facebook video, the first is a European Green Deal.

The British scientific journal Nature has an essay by Quirin Schiermeier about the climate pledge which amplifies some of its details--"by 2030 to at least a 50% cut, relative to 1990 levels." The Green Deal "would include a law to make Europe carbon neutral by2050. It "includes a biodiversity strategy for Europe, an extended emissions-trading system and a tax to avoid carbon 'leakage'--when companies transfer the production of goods to countries with more relaxed  emission limits." Obviously, President von der Leyen "will need to win the backing of EU nations--strengthening climate targets is something that EU member states must decide by consensus."

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Talking About Climate Change

Environmental & Science Education
Climate Change
Edward Hessler

In a recent issue of Chatelaine, climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, describes a way she has found useful to talk about climate change with those who don't "believe in it" or doubt its relevance. If you are not familiar with Hayhoe, her homepage provides almost all there is to know.

Hayhoe makes an important point at the outset. While skeptics dominate the discussion, in fact most people agree that the climate is warming and that it is due to human activity. 

In short, what Hayhoe has found most useful is listening to people, especially to what matters to them, e.g., "When will my family's farm run out of water? What risks does climate change pose to our city: How can we transition our energy systems off fossil fuels without harming the economy here or development abroad?" 
I strongly recommend the full article because I have chosen to focus only on a small part of it. 
Hayhoe was once asked to speak "at the Rotary Club in West Texas, where I live."  When she walked into the hall, a giant banner caught her eye. It was about the Rotarian's Four-Way Test. In short, it is an ethical guideline.

--Is it the truth?

--Is it fair to all concerned?

--Will it build goodwill and better relationships?

--And will it beneficial to all concerned?

This list of values caught her eye as she found them compatible with her scientific and personal values. Because she is not only an expert on climate change, has talked about it most of her professional life, including early on in her marriage, with a very skeptical husband, she was able to quickly change her talk on the spot (by skipping the buffet), organizing it around the Rotarian framework.

Hayhoe made the historical case for climate change. Then established the unfairness of climate change using the carbon footprint of the poorest among the world's population who have "contributed so little to the problem, yet they will bear the brunt of the impacts.

And yes it would "build goodwill and be beneficial to address climate change. ... The more climate changes, the more serious and even ultimately dangerous it impacts become. IN Texas, climate change is amplifying our natural cycle of et and dry, making our droughts stronger and longer at the same time it supercharges hurricanes and extreme rain." By working together,goodwill can be built.

One participant, a local banker was persuaded, saying "I wasn't too sure about this whole global warming thing, but it passed the Four-Way Test." How? Hayhoe didn't do a data/fact talk although she probably used some data, nor did she start by being disagreeable. She started by making use of shared values, "showing my respect for them and then connecting the dots between what he already cared about and a changing climate. ...(T)o care about climate change, all we really have to be is a human living on the Planet Earth, someone who cares about the health and the welfare of our family, our community and especially those less fortunate than us."

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Better Living Through Chemistry

Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

The phrase in the title of this post is the popular variant of the long-running Dupont advertising slogan (1935-1982) "Better Things for Better Living...Through Chemistry."

I thought of it when I read NPR's Jodi Helmer short essay about a new kind of coffee. Beanless coffee, that is.

Two entreprenuers, Jarrett Stopforth and Andy Kleitsh, founded their company, Atomo!, with the idea of separating and cataloguing "more than 1000 compounds in coffee," and then re-engineering and marketing it. There is more than caffeine, a molecule that often decorates chemist's coffee cups, in coffee.

Helmer notes that the resulting beanless coffee, hard won after many trials, "is a mixture of dozens of compounds found in food, such as antioxidants, flavonoids and coffee acids." Caffeine is added to the final brew.

I hope you read Helmer's short essay which includes a discussion of chicory coffee, still popular in New Orleans and next steps for Atomo!, a Kickstarter campaign. I was interested to learn that coffee without beans can still be called coffee because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not have a 'standard of identity' or official definition for coffee."

You've probably seen chicory (in the family that includes dandelions), a transplant from Europe and now common along road ways.  It's blue flowers are among my favorites. Soul filling.

Monday, August 19, 2019

One Sentence Research Summaries

Environmental & Science Education
Solar System
Nature of Science
Edward Hessler

Below the fold of the March 3, 2019 edition of the Wall Street Journal is found this headline: "Haikus About Space/Make Science Less Tedious/So Hope Scientists."  It was written by Daniela Hernandez. 

I almost missed it in my haste to get to the editorial/letters/op-ed pages.  Hernandes's article is about a few of the 335 haiku entries submitted as one-sentence summaries researchers are required to include about their work for the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston. Hernandez writes that haiku has become "part of a growing use unconventional means to make science more accessible."

This is fodder for a challenge...a quiz, one on which I didn't do so well. Below are three haikus and below them are the answers--the papers/the scientific phenomenon they are describing. Please read, respond and then check your answer. It is up to you to decide how well you did. When you are finished answer whether you decided whether these make science more accessible. Again, you are the evaluator. 

In the event you haven't tried your hand at a haiku recently. The basic formula is that they are 17-syllable poems, which is another way of saying they are short.


a. Look at falling sky/ Rock from big red rock in black/ Sky to find life signs.

b. Sudden wall collapse/Petals of debris lay down/Valley feels deformed.

c. Apollo brought us/History in their gloved hands/Tiny rocky clocks.


b. Erin Kraul. Kutztown University.  Presentation on geomorphic mapping of landslides in Aram Valley, Mars. She won first place and came prepared, writing a haiku for her acceptance speech: Teaching demands an end/to planetary palytime, now/enjoy science for me.

a. Aine O'Brien. Glasgow University. "The Effects of Shock and Raman Laser Irradiation on the Maturity of Organics in Martian Meteorites."

c. Barbara Cohen. NASA researcher. Work on lunar samples.

Here is the link to the WSJ article although you have to be subscriber to read it. I'm not. I happened to read a paper copy, an infrequent event.

A science haiku is sometimes referred to as a "sciku."  There is a website for these kinds of haiku.

I like the idea and my guess is that the audience for the haiku forms Hernandez writes about would do much better at describing the content than me. They have another clue, too. The researcher's work may be known to them. In addition, depending on how the program is arranged the session title probably provides another clue.
Sure they make science more accessible if only by making scientists more human. Generally, like most of us, they are also members of the species described as Homo ludens

An idea for Science Fairs to consider.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Day 4 on the Atlantic: A Report from Greta Thunberg and an Editorial in Nature on Climate Change's Youth MovementThe Malizia II Crossing the Atlantic Ocean

Environmental & Science Education
Climate Change
Edward Hessler

In a Twitter post with a picture (reported in The Guardian) Greta Thunberg, on her fourth day at sea, writes,"Eating and sleeping well and no sea sickness so far. Life on Malizia II is like camping on a roller coaster!" At the time she wrote this, Malizia II was "becalmed in the ocean after a choppy start to the trip."

An editorial in Nature for 15 August 2019 notes that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has done its job. Or perhaps its jobs, time and time again, year after year, churning out report after report.The editorial directs our attention to climate change's youth movement, one with a difference, I think.

When it comes to the role of international political leadership in tackling climate change, the record of achievement leaves much to be desired. But now, because of the IPCC’s findings, and with the help of a vigorous youth climate movement — which, unlike adult policymakers, seems to actually pay attention to the IPCC — an opportunity has arisen for real action.

The editorial continues,

"As each of the UN conventions faces continuing challenges, the IPCC can at least be assured of support from the next generation. It has garnered a following among the growing international youth climate movement. Members keenly absorb every new report, including participants in the school strike for climate, led by Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg.
"Thunberg makes a point of namechecking the IPCC and quoting paragraph and page numbers in speeches, as she did in an address to the French parliament at the end of last month.
"As government delegates get ready for Delhi, Nairobi and New York, they must prepare to answer why, if children can understand the meaning of the IPCC assessments, adults cannot do the same?"

UPDATE.  Doing good is hard. There is a new wrinkle reported today, August 17 by Associated Press.  The sailing team has to "fly two crew across the Atlantic to bring the boat back, but that the carbon emissions from their flights will be compensated for."

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Endangered Species

Environmental & Science Education
Endangered Species
Edward Hessler

From Nature News a link to a video of a wiggling kakapo, heralding the good news that three of the critically endangered New Zealand birds have been born, for the first time in a decade, from artificial insemination (AI). What a cutiepie!

From the accompanying twitter feed, Dr. Andrew Digby who leads this effort writes: AI is hard. Efforts started in 2002, & the first AI attempt was in 2008. In 2009 the team was the first to achieve success in AI in a wild bird species. But until this year we haven't been able to replicate that success.

Friday, August 16, 2019

This Academic Life

Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

Academic tenure is a big deal.

The Wiki entry which includes arguments for and against this practice notes that "A tenured post is an indefinite academic appointment that can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances, such as financial exigency or program discontinuation. Tenure is a means of defending the principle of academic freedom, which holds that it is beneficial for society in the long run if scholars are free to hold and examine a variety of views."

Academic tenure is granted by the board of trustees after a review and recommendation by a committee of what amounts to a portfolio--publications, contributions, teaching, etc. It takes time and is not granted easily.

Nature Briefing notes for August 15, 2019, that if the process seems slow there is one reason to "take heart." Jimmy Carter who served as president of the United States and was awarded the Nobel peace prize was just granted tenure as a professor at Emory University after 37 years of service and teaching. During that time he and the University formed The Carter Center which focuses on global human rights issues.

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

Today's poem is by Ted Kooser.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

How A Book Became A Building

Image result for nature window
Environmental & Science Education
Early Childhood
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

In 1984, Roger Ulrich published what became a classic paper. It is referred to as the "View Through a Window" paper. I once had a copy but moves and recycling took over.

Ulrich reported on the influence on the recovery rates of patients after bladder surgery (cholecystectomy) who could view natural scenes from their hospital window to those viewing urban scenes. Here is the abstract of the paper published in Science.

Records on recovery after cholecystectomy of patients in a suburban Pennsylvania hospital between 1972 and 1981 were examined to determine whether assignment to a room with a window view of a natural setting might have restorative influences. Twenty-three surgical patients assigned to rooms with windows looking out on a natural scene had shorter postoperative hospital stays, received fewer negative evaluative comments in nurses' notes, and took fewer potent analgesics than 23 matched patients in similar rooms with windows facing a brick building wall.

In a recent article in the Times Literary Supplement (TLS), Robert MacFarlane refers to the Ulrich paper in an essay about healthcare design. You may have noticed this in some healthcare facilities--not nearly as many as I'd like but.... He provides a brief history on this relationship between nature and health care. This slow-growing movement is known as "well-building" and/or "biophilic design."  The article is about how a book he wrote with artist Jackie Morris--The Lost Words, has been used in the design of a new building at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH) in Stanmore (north London, England).

Earlier I wrote a post about the McFarlane-Morris book. In a few words, it is about 20 words for every day, plants and critters that are no longer found in the Oxford Junior Dictionary, A to W.  They have been replaced by technical words in common use today--computerese. McFarlane wrote a "spell" for each lost word "and across three double-spreads (Morris) painted in watercolour first the absence of the named creature or plant, then--set in gold leaf--its radiant presence as an icon, and at last its return to the landscape or ecosystem of which it is a part." Here is a glimpse of the book as well as extensive comments by Morris on the book's design.

Image result for stanmore hospital
Artist Jackie Morris has an entry in her blog about the hospital design, titled "How A Book Became A Building."  Ms. Morris writes that "At the beginning of 2018 I was asked to 'express an interest' in a commissioned piece of work. The request took me by surprise, but once I had written, confessed my ignorance, had the procedure explained to me I thought about it for a while.

"The commission was for the atrium and walls of the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore. The history of the hospital linked the outside, the natural world to health. The site had been moved from central London to the greener edges of the city where the air was purer." 

(McFarlane begins his TLS essay with a description of an early film showing some of the children from the children's wards at the RNOH collecting buttercups. He calls attention to this link between hospital and nature (outside). "Group nature walks, beds moved outside into the fresh air and outdoor play were all then fully integrated into what would today be called a 'care pathway' for the children...."

The "pitch" Morris made was successful. The task she and designer Alison O'Toole (she was the book's designer) had taken was not small: "to decorate the corridors of four floors of the hospital, eighty panels in total." Morris writes that it was a "very steep learning curve."

Morris's entry is lavishly illustrated and also describes the powerful collaboration between artist, designer and writer. The Stanmore Building opened in early December 2018--on time and within budget!  The building is stunning. An aerial view of the building, the accommodations, a picture of patient Rachel opening the building, an image of the atrium in which is suspended an art installation, and a short slide show are found here.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The 2019 Spring Flood And Two Farmers In Nebraska

Image result for 2019 flood

Environmental & Science Education
Climate Change
Edward Hessler

This CBS report-- ~ 23 minutes long--is about the historic flood of March 2019 which put much of the central part of the United States under water.

The film beautifully reported by Adam Yamagouchi, tells the story of two farmers in Nebraska who are on different paths to farming their land after the aftermath.