Saturday, January 19, 2019

A Hew MN House of Representatives Committee

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Climate Change
Edward Hessler

On Tuesday, January 15, there was a Minnesota House of Representatives committee meeting.

So? What's new, committees meet all the time.

This though was a first.

A big first

The committee just happened to be the newly named House Energy and Climate Finance and Policy Division (bold added).

The Committee Chair is Representative Jean Wagenius (65B)
The Vice Chair is Representative Jamie Long (61B)

Here is the link to the Committee's home page where you will find a list of members, schedule, referred legislation, meeting minutes and subscribe to the mailing list.



Friday, January 18, 2019

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

Mary Oliver died Thursday, age 83.

Here is one of her poems.

This story about her is from NPR and includes another poem.


Thursday, January 17, 2019

Natural Climate Solutions: United States

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Climate Change
Edward Hessler

Decisions about fossil fuel energy use now and into the future must be consciously informed by accounting for carbon--what happens to it as fossil fuel energy is used. I hadn't thought much about the use of land stewardship options that increase the storage of carbon while avoiding the release of carbon into the atmosphere. Fortunately, others have.

Joseph W. Fargione, and 37 other authors recently "quantified the potential of natural climate solutions (NCS)--21 conservation, restoration, and improved land management interventions on natural and agricultural lands--to increase carbon storage and avoid greenhouse gas emissions in the United States."

Their findings, reported in Natural Climate Solutions for the United States, published in Science Advances (November 2018) is that standard land stewardship/management practices have a maximum potential "of 21% of current net annual emissions of the United States (in 2015)." This includes an assumption, zero cost. The authors constrained this estimate by taking into account societal goals, i.e., our needs for both food and fiber. 

Of course the estimate is a best case scenario but it provides targets of opportunity...aims that are within reach. There are co-benefits as well: air filtration,  biological diversity (habitat protectoin or restoration), soil (enrichment) and water (filtration and flood control). The land management practices were grouped into three categories.

For forests, six practices were examined; These ree reforestation, natural forest management, avoided forest conversion, urban reforestation, fire management, and improved plantations.

For agriculture and grasslands, eleven practices were analyzed: avoided grassland conversion, cover crops, biochar, alley cropping, cropland nutrient management, improved manure management, windbreaks, grazing optimization, grassland restoration, legumes in pastures, and improved rice. Biochar is charcoal added to agricultural soils to store carbon.

For wetlands, four practices were studied: tidal wetland restoration, peatland restoration, avoided seagrass loss, and seagrass restoration. The carbon in three of these are often referred to as blue carbon or the carbon stored in coastal ecosystems.

The researchers estimated the potential of these practices in mitigating greenhouse gases that could be accomplished for $10, $50, and $100 (all U. S.) measured in carbon dioxide equivalents. At these price points, "25 percent, 76 percent, and 91 percent, respectively, of the maximum mitigation would be achieved." This economic analysis is based on carbon markets and I'm not going to attempt to explain their workings but the authors write that "a price of $100 is thought to be needed to keep the 100-year average temperature from warming more than 2.5 degrees C."  They note that to achieve the Paris Agreement of 2 degrees C would be higher. The idea is to pay in the cost of carbon units and then to reward those who do with financial credits. For a thorough discussion of carbon markets see here.

Star Tribune reporter Josephine Marcotty noted that according to the study of NCS, Minnesota "ranks 8th overall with the potential to reduce net carbon emissions by up to a third."  She also wrote that "a significant portion of the benefit in Minnesota would come from planting cover crops." However, "Paul Porter, a U of M agronomy professor," noted that this practice would be "a steep climb," one unlikely in the near term. Porter further observed that "it has to be economical for farmers, and right now its not."

The Nature Conservancy press release announcing the publication describes the findings from several perspectives at the scale of the study, the United States.

NCS are not the answer (is anything?) but these practices can help in ways that surprised me. Increments add up over time. Importantly the practices are doable on a variety of scales from individuals to governmental policies. In their summary, the authors said this about this ambitious research study. Reducing carbon-intensive energy consumption is necessary but insufficient to meet the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement. Comprehensive mitigation efforts that include fossil fuel emission reductions coupled with NCS hold promise for keeping warming below 2°C.

 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Data Points

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Education
Edward Hessler

Occasionally I wonder how many K-12 public schools, districts, teachers, administrators and students are there in the United States? What are the top ten largest school districts? How long do administrators serve? Etc.

Maya Riser-Kositsky who writes for Education Week, American Education's Newspaper of Record, has spent some time and labor finding these kinds of data using sources from the U. S. Department of Education, National Center for Eduction Statistics; U. S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau; The Broad Center; Education Week Research Center, 2018.

So if you are interested in what she found here you go

Ms. Riser-Kositsky has made this an easy read.

And if you are interested in some similar data points for Minnesota, this summary from the Minnesota Department of Education should help.

Monday, January 14, 2019

A Death In The Family

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Biodiversity
Biological Evolution
Extinction
Nature of Science
History of Science
Edward Hessler

--I love Cerion with all my heart and mind.--Stephen Jay Gould*

On January 4, 2019, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources announced a significant death. Another species has disappeared from the planet. The last known Achatinella apexfulva in the Hawaiian Islands, 'George,' died on New Year’s Day, 2019. George was approximately 14 years old and his name was derived from the Pinta Island Galapagos tortoise, 'Lonesome George,' also the last of its species.

George died in captivity, the last of ten who it was hoped would produce offspring so that a small population would grow.

The news release also notes that Achatinella apexfulva was the first of over 750 species of land snails from the Hawaiian Islands described in western science. The first mention dates back to at least 1787 when Captain George Dixon was docked on O‘ahu and was given a shell on a lei.  These snails were once common on O‘ahu in the Ko‘olau Mountains and were used heavily for lei making as access to them was much easier at lower elevations. (my emphasis)

Land snails have contributed to our understanding of biological evolution, namely the importance of geographical separation in speciation. Much is owed to the pioneering work of missionary and evolutionist, John Thomas Gulick (13 March 1832 - 14 April 1923), who was born in Hawaii, on the island of Kauai. He was the first to  note the role of geographic isolation in species formation. 

Gulick can be credited with discovering 'intra-island endemism,' i.e., the ecological state of being unique to a particular place. In this case, on an island with the endemic (unique) species being found in the valleys separated by ridges.

Rebecca Rundell wrote a splendid review of Gulick, including his life, and his work which was published in the American Malacological Bulletin (2011). This paper provides insights into the nature of science (e.g., naturalists v. experimentalists, the fortuitous nature of discovery, being in the right place, taking advantage of a general interest in shells) and the history of science (how ideas change and reasons for those changes). In her article, Rundell discusses an early debate on mechanisms for evolutionary change. In this particular case it was natural selection or geographic isolation (now both are regarded as mechanisms). The paper includes an interesting map.  

*Cerion was a genus of tropical land snails from Bermuda and islands of the Caribbean that the late paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould studied.


 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Morning Commute

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Engineering
Sustainability Energy & Transportation
Poverty
Edward Hessler

I've watched a short video from the BBC a couple of times and can't shake it.

It is about how people find a way of making a living under conditions that are nearly unimaginable

One obvious contrast is Bachman-Turner Overdrive's Takin' Care of Business and this one, two ways of making the morning commute..

We live in a wealthy world with more poverty than I will ever know. Our comfort allows us to think about and experience that world so differently.

Friday, January 11, 2019

A Change In The Climate of Climate Education

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Climate Change
Edward Hessler

From Glenn Branch of the National Center for Science Education comes some news about climate change education and schools.

Many states already require the teaching of climate change in effect, through its inclusion in their state science standards, but not as a matter of statute. A bill, HB 5011 introduced in Connecticut would amend the Connecticut General Statutes to require "that the science curriculum of the prescribed courses of study for public schools include the teaching of climate change and that such teaching begin in elementary school."  HB 5011 is not the first such bill in Connecticut.
Read about it here.

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

A poem for January by Donald Revell.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A Winner Is Announced

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

On December 8, 2018 I posted an announcement from the American Academy of Poets about the first-ever National Poetry Contest for Students.

The winner was announced a few days ago. Julia Wang is in tenth grade at Lynbrook High School, San Jose, California.

You may read about the contest, Wang's artistic statement about the poster, the judges and also see the poster here. You can request one, too.

As I said before, I think this was a difficult choice or at least it would have been for me.

I ordered one but my past experience with poster offers from the American Academy of Poets for National Poetry Month is mixed. Sometimes I get one; most often I don't. Still I think it is always worth the try--envelope and stamp free although there is an environmental cost.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Doodle for Google 2018: Behind The Art With The Artists and Winner

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Art and Environment
Children
Edward Hessler

Here is the story behind the new Google Doodle, the one featuring dinosaurs.

This was the 10th year of googling and doodling.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Do Things Ever Change?

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Sustainability
Society
Culture
Edward Hessler

Kenneth Weiss is an emeritus professor (anthropology) at The Pennsylvania State University. Now that he is retired he posts less frequently on his blog The Mermaid's Tale but I still check it frequently.  I read Weiss for his thoughtful, critical comments on big science and genome association studies (GWAS).

Near Christmas 2018 Weiss wrote a "post as a kind of reminder, of who we are relative to who we fancy ourselves to be, relative to who we once were." The centerpiece was two pages from The Malay Archipelago (The Races of Man) by Darwin contemporary and co-discoverer of the theory of evolution, Alfred Russel Wallace, a book I've never read although I've read excerpts. The book concludes with a devastating critique and condemnation of his home country, England. The criticism still resonates with a truth we don't care to confront. Unfortunately, there have been almost no changes.

Compared with over wondrous progress in physical science and its practical applications, our system of government, of administering justice, of national education, and out chief energies to the utilizing of our knowledge of the laws of nature with the view of still further extending our commerce and our wealth, the evils which necessarily accompanying these when too eagerly pursued, may increase to such gigantic dimensions as to be beyond our power to alleviate.

We should now clearly recognize the fact, that the wealth and knowledge and culture of the few do not constitute civilization, and do not of themselves advance us toward the "perfect social state." Our vast manufacturing system, our gigantic commerce, our crowded towns and cities, support and continually renew a mass of human misery and crime absolutely greater than has even existed before.

Here are relevant links:

Professor Weiss's blog entry.

A long Wiki entry on Wallace.  It is divided into convenient sections making it easy to scan.

A review of The Malay Archipelago published in The Guardian.

A Wiki entry on GWAS. Scroll down for a section on some criticisms of GWAS




Sunday, January 6, 2019

PreSchools: Online or Offline

Environmental & Science Education
Children
Early Childhood
Society
Culture
Edward Hessler

I'd never heard of or given any thought to the idea of online preschools. What? 

Turns out that it is a growing industry (calling it an industry seems a fair characterization because it seems to me an industrial model with inputs (young, curious kids), assembly (in the form of drills, rote learning) and outputs (a narrow set of skills).). 

Try to let the idea of a screen-based education for young children sink in. It doesn't compute. So what is the temptation?  It is cheap. It is a money-maker for the for profit-based companies (the "pre-K market" is in the neighborhood of $70 b per year, that's a big B).

Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Lesley College (now a professor emerita) an early education expert and cofounder of the not-for-profit, Defending the Early Years. In a recent column in EdSurge, Professor Carlsson-Paige writes that "it is a sorry substitute for the whole child, play-based early childhood education that all young children deserve to have." (My emphasis).

I quote from Carlsson-Paige whose child-centered prescriptions makes sense to me.

Young children don't learn optimally from screen-based instruction. Kids learn through activity. They use their bodies, minds and all of their senses to learn. They learn concepts through hands-on experience with materials in three-dimensional space. Through their own activity and play, and their interactions with peers and teachers, children build their ideas gradually over time.

Many of the online pre-K programs encourage parents to put their kids in front of computers to do academic drills even if they are in a preschools setting.But if parents really want to help their kids get ahead, whether they are in brick and mortar preschools or not, they would do best by reading lots of books to their children, having ongoing conversations with them, listening and askng open-ended questions that help kids think.They might tell them stories, provide a place for children to play and materials to play with, such as building blocks and art materials that allow them to explore number relationships and use symbols.

Some key words/phrases: activity, whole body, sensory, 3-D space, interactions with materials, others and teachers, idea construction over time, conversation, read-alouds, listening, asking open-ended questions, stuff to play with (blocks are one of the greatest toys ever invented), exploration.


And speaking of read-alouds, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was the subject of a short CBS This Morning profile on reading about his love of reading and of sharing that love with young children. Luck apparently is known as the "NFL's unofficial librarian." He likes it. One takeaway was that the children appeared much less interested in Luck's quarterback/football cred than in being read to.

I link you to two kinds of early childhood schooling mentioned by Professor Carlsson-Paige: Reggio Emilia and Waldorf in the event you've not heard of them.

 




Friday, January 4, 2019

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

A poem by Tess Gallagher seems a wonderful way to start this new year of Friday poems.

This poem was written for Dr. Drago Stambuk.


Thursday, January 3, 2019

Meet the Press Meets Climate Change

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Climate Change
Society
Edward Hessler

For a guy who doesn't have television I don't know how I decided to check-in with Chuck Todd on Sunday (12.30.2018) as he hosted "Meet the Press." I'm glad I had access via my PC.

This is how the program started. "This morning we're going to do something that we con't often get to do: dive in on one topic."  The topic?  Global climate change (GCC). Todd described GCC as "a literally earth-changing subject that doesn't get talked about this thoroughly, at least on television news."

Todd followed this with a statement I don't recall ever hearing on a news program. "Just as important as what we are going to do is what we're not going to do. We're not going to debate climate change, the existence of it. The earth is getting hotter and human activity is a major cause, period. The science is settled even if political opinion is not." In addition, Todd said that he was not going "to confuse weather with climate." (my emphasis)


I took notes as fast as I could but didn't capture the quotes accurately, expecting I could get to that later to check and complete them and then, most importantly, provide a link to the entire program. I was not successful and don't know whether these programs are archived (but see below).  I'm thankful that reporters who work harder than I do reported. The exact quotes are from The Hill.

Among the expert guests were California Governor Jerry Brown , Dr. Kate Marvel (Columbia University Research Scientist/Max Goddard Institute for Space Science),  Anne Thompson (NBC News Chief Environmental Correspondent), Craig Fugate (Former FEMA administrator), Michele Flournoy (Former Under Secretary of Defense), Representative Carlos Carbello (R-FL), and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The links to the progam I've found don't appear to be stable. 

Aha, finally I can hear you asking, what about YouTube? The light bulb went on, bright as the noonday sun. Here is the entire program in the event you missed it or want to see parts again. It starts with some data on the politics of global climate change.









Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Another Perfect(ly) Large Number

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Mathematics Education
Maths
History of Science
Edward Hessler

A perfect number is one such that its proper factors sum to the number.  The smallest is 6=1+2+3, then 28=1+2+4+7+14, followed by 496 and 8128.  These were the only ones known to the ancient Greek mathematicians but they knew there were more. They lacked the mathematics. 

These numbers are not easy to locate and further to verify. Perfect numbers are named after the French monk Marin Marsenne. While he made a mistake in a search for one his name has remained attached to these numbers. 

The Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) just announced the finding of the 51st prime.  It is a big, big, big, big number. Lawrence Shirley who posted about it on his blog denoted its size this way: "The new perfect number has 49,724,096 digits (about 78.5 mi/125 km long in a font of 10 digits/inch).  

A colleague in mathematics education at Hamline, Jim Brickwedde made the scale more personal by imagining four 78.5 mile trips from Hamline University.
  • Eastbound I-94, to the first exit to Eau Claire, WI. 
  • Northbound I-35, almost to Tobies restaurant and Bakery, Hinckley
  • Westbound I-94, to the St Joseph exit and then a little
  • Southbound 1-35, to the Hwy 14 exit south of Owatanna and then some