A number of years ago, I spent some time in Africa with members of the Kenyan Wildlife Service whose mission was to protect endangered and protected wildlife from poachers. The job was hazardous; poachers were generally armed and willing to shoot. And the penalties, if the poachers were caught, were severe. But, the KWS rangers said, it wasn't a clear case of good guys versus the bad guys. Yes, the poaching was terrible. And the big money it offered didn't even go, in most cases, to the hunters themselves. They might make $200 for elephant tusks that their "employers" would turn around and sell on the global market for many, many times that amount. "But it's hard to make the case that we need to preserve the elephants," one of the rangers explained to me, "to a Masai tribesman who is so poor that $200 could make the difference between his 6-year-old son living or dying. He's not going to sacrifice his son to save some wild animal."
No, of course not. No parent would. Part of the challenge, then, was to try to convince the tribesmen that the tourism the elephants would bring to the area would provide as much or more income, at far less risk, than poaching.
It's a point that was highlighted earlier this week during Secretary of State HIllary Rodham Clinton's visit to India, when her upbeat comments about being partners with India in fighting global warming were countered, almost immediately, by Jairam Ramesh, India's environment and forests minister. The Indian minister said that India was not in a position to take on legally binding emission standards, and already had one of the lowest carbon emissions rates per capita, in the world.
Roughly translated, Ramesh was saying, pointedly, that the U.S. could well talk about reducing emissions, because it already had a developed and basically well-fed society ... a position it had attained because it didn't have to worry about carbon emissions as it developed. India, with a population of over 1 billion, a poverty rate (living on less than $1.25 a day) of somewhere around 40%, doesn't have that luxury. The rich folk can worry about saving the elephants; the poor have more urgent problems at hand. When most Indians can afford clean transportation, are well fed and safely above poverty levels, come talk to them about reducing emissions.
It's a point echoed in "Mr. Gore, Your Solution to Global Warming is Wrong," a feature in the current issue of Esquire magazine. Written by Bjorn Lomborg, the director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and a professor at the Copenhagen Business School, the article offers an interesting perspective on the global warming debate. Or, rather, the global warming solution debate. Professor Lomborg does not believe that reducing carbon emissions will solve the problem, and argues that our focus on emission reduction is misplaced. In part because of the minor difference that approach is projected to have, over time, but also because of the punitive consequences of that approach for a large percentage of the world's population.
Global warming may harm your grandchildren's chances of survival in sub-Saharan Africa 50 years from now, but if you don't use that poorly maintained, diesel-guzzling truck you somehow got lucky enough to have access to, your children may die next week. And rather than investing billions in reducing carbon emissions, you'd much prefer the powers that be invested in mosquito nets.
When and how does that change? One way, according to Lomborg, is for the poor to become, well ... less poor. "Once a country achieves a certain standard of living, with their kids healthy and educated, citizens invariably begin to shift their focus toward the environment, and pollution starts to fall," he notes -- a dynamic known as the "Kuznets curve."
Consequently, Lomborg advocates a number of nutrition and economic initiatives that may not seem directly related to global warming, but could aid the effort by increasing the number of people with enough margin, or luxury, to care. Lomborg also argues that significant change needs to come from developing alternate fuel sources and eliminating the need for fossil fuel; an approach he believes would have a greater impact over time, and would also eliminate the punitive carbon-reduction-without-other-substitutes problem for the poor, or developing countries.
While eliminating poverty in the world is a noble goal, it might rate even higher on the challenge Richter scale than stopping global warming itself. Not that we shouldn't invest in mosquito nets, micro-finance and micro-nutrient initiatives. And not that we shouldn't, as a country that has more margin to play with, do all we can to reduce our carbon emissions. Just because the rest of the world isn't perfect doesn't excuse us from our own responsibility to be responsible.
But although Lomborg didn't explicitly make this point, it occurred to me that if the key to success is, in essence, to convince the Masai that they will economically benefit more by saving the elephant than killing it, there might be another benefit in his alternative fuels and technology approach. Investing in alternative fuels, versus focusing on carbon emission reduction, might reduce the punitive pressure on developing countries. But if there were somehow money to be made by alternative technology that could be developed, built, or somehow used to the profit and benefit of those people and countries, they might be more willing to work on keeping the elephant alive.
It's a complex issue, with more problems than answers. But looking at what would make the rest of the world want to get on board is certainly an angle worth considering in the debate.
A new anatomical understanding of how movement controls the body’s stress response system
Elite tennis players have an uncanny ability to clear their heads after making errors. They constantly move on and start fresh for the next point. They can’t afford to dwell on mistakes.
Peter Strick is not a professional tennis player. He’s a distinguished professor and chair of the department of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute. He’s the sort of person to dwell on mistakes, however small.
“My kids would tell me, dad, you ought to take up pilates. Do some yoga,” he said. “But I’d say, as far as I’m concerned, there's no scientific evidence that this is going to help me.”
Still, the meticulous skeptic espoused more of a tennis approach to dealing with stressful situations: Just teach yourself to move on. Of course there is evidence that ties practicing yoga to good health, but not the sort that convinced Strick. Studies show correlations between the two, but he needed a physiological mechanism to explain the relationship. Vague conjecture that yoga “decreases stress” wasn’t sufficient. How? Simply by distracting the mind?
No one will ever find a closer exoplanet—now the race is on to see if there is life on its surface.
One hundred and one years ago this October, a Scottish astronomer named Robert Innes pointed a camera at a grouping of stars near the Southern Cross, the defining feature of the night skies above his adopted Johannesburg. He was looking for a small companion to Alpha Centauri, our closest neighboring star system.
Hunched over glass photographic plates, Innes teased out a signal. Across five years of images, a small, faint star moved, wiggling on the sky. It shifted just as much as Alpha Centauri, suggesting its fate was intertwined with that binary system. But this small star was closer to the sun than Alpha. Innes suggested calling it Proxima Centauri, using the Latin word for “nearest.”
The dim red star soon entered the collective imagination, inspiring dreams of interstellar travel. Gravity has linked the star to the Alpha Centauri system, but our culture of science and storytelling has linked it to the solar system. Today, that link will grow stronger, when an international team of astronomers announces that this nearest of stars also hosts the closest exoplanet, one that might look a whole lot like Earth.
Do mission-driven organizations with tight budgets have any choice but to demand long, unpaid hours of their staffs?
Earlier this year, at the encouragement of President Obama, the Department of Labor finalized the most significant update to the federal rules on overtime in decades. The new rules will more than double the salary threshold for guaranteed overtime pay, from about $23,000 to $47,476. Once the rules go into effect this December, millions of employees who make less than that will be guaranteed overtime pay under the law when they work more than 40 hours a week.
Unsurprisingly, some business lobbies and conservatives disparaged the rule as unduly burdensome. But pushback also came from what might have been an unexpected source: a progressive nonprofit called the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). “Doubling the minimum salary to $47,476 is especially unrealistic for non-profit, cause-oriented organizations,” U.S. PIRG said in a statement. “[T]o cover higher staffing costs forced upon us under the rule, we will be forced to hire fewer staff and limit the hours those staff can work—all while the well-funded special interests that we're up against will simply spend more.”
City dwellers spend nearly every moment of every day awash in wi-fi signals. Homes, streets, businesses, and office buildings are constantly blasting wireless signals every which way for the benefit of nearby phones, tablets, laptops, wearables, and other connected paraphernalia.
When those devices connect to a router, they send requests for information—a weather forecast, the latest sports scores, a news article—and, in turn, receive that data, all over the air. As it communicates with the devices, the router is also gathering information about how its signals are traveling through the air, and whether they’re being disrupted by obstacles or interference. With that data, the router can make small adjustments to communicate more reliably with the devices it’s connected to.
Finally, an explanation for Bitchy Resting Face Nation
Here’s something that has always puzzled me, growing up in the U.S. as a child of Russian parents. Whenever I or my friends were having our photos taken, we were told to say “cheese” and smile. But if my parents also happened to be in the photo, they were stone-faced. So were my Russian relatives, in their vacation photos. My parents’ high-school graduation pictures show them frolicking about in bellbottoms with their young classmates, looking absolutely crestfallen.
It’s not just photos: Russian women do not have to worry about being instructed by random men to “smile.” It is Bitchy Resting Face Nation, seemingly forever responding “um, I guess?” to any question the universe might pose.
This does not mean we are all unhappy! Quite the opposite: The virile ruler, the vodka, the endless mounds of sour cream—they are pleasing to some. It’s just that grinning without cause is not a skill Russians possess or feel compelled to cultivate. There’s even a Russian proverb that translates, roughly, to “laughing for no reason is a sign of stupidity.”
This much is obvious: Young people don’t buy homes like they used to.
In the aftermath of the recession and weak recovery, the share of 18- to- 34 year olds—a.k.a.: Millennials—who own a home has fallen to a 30-year low. For the first time on record going back more than a century, young people are now more likely to live with their parents than with a spouse.
It’s become en vogue to argue that young people’s turn against homeownership might be a good thing. After all, houses are not always dependable investment vehicles, a lesson the country learned all too painfully after the Great Recession. Without being anchored to any one city from their mid-20s and into their 30s, young people who don’t own are free to roam about the country in search of the best jobs. What’s more, given the copious advantages of a college degree in this economy, perhaps many young people could be commended for investing in their intelligence, professional networks, and abilities rather than devote that same income to a roof, floor, and furniture.
The U.S. presidential nominee’s anti-Islam rhetoric has motivated some to speak out against stereotypes.
Donald Trump has effectively declared Muslims the enemy, accusing them of shielding terrorists in their midst, pushing to ban them from entering the country, and suggesting that the United States should start thinking seriously about profiling them. In response, some American Muslim women are speaking out against Trump and his anti-Muslim rhetoric.
“I never really felt like I was ‘the other’ until now,” said Mirriam Seddiq, a 45-year-old immigration and criminal-defense lawyer from Northern Virginia who recently started a political-action committee called American Muslim Women. “It’s a strange realization to have, but it’s what motivated me to do this. There are so many misconceptions about Muslim women, and I want to help counter that narrative.”
Donald Trump’s campaign manager says he’s actually winning, thanks to “undercover” supporters. Plenty of past presidential hopefuls have mistakenly believed the same.
A candidate or operative on a campaign that's losing has three options: despair; accept what’s happening and try to fix it; or deny. Right now, the Donald Trump campaign is exhibiting all three.
For despair, there are the staffers who are reportedly “suicidal” inside Trump Tower, and those who have simply quit. For acceptance, Trump himself has admitted he’s in trouble. But newly promoted campaign manager Kellyanne Conway is taking the denial route.
“Donald Trump performs consistently better in online polling where a human being is not talking to another human being about what he or she may do in the election,” she told the British outlet Channel 4. “It’s because it’s become socially desirable, if you’re a college educated person in the United States of America, to say that you’re against Donald Trump.”
A new survey suggests the logistics of going to services can be the biggest barrier to participation—and Americans’ faith in religious institutions is declining.
The standard narrative of American religious decline goes something like this: A few hundred years ago, European and American intellectuals began doubting the validity of God as an explanatory mechanism for natural life. As science became a more widely accepted method for investigating and understanding the physical world, religion became a less viable way of thinking—not just about medicine and mechanics, but also culture and politics and economics and every other sphere of public life. As the United States became more secular, people slowly began drifting away from faith.
Of course, this tale is not just reductive—it’s arguably inaccurate, in that it seems to capture neither the reasons nor the reality behind contemporary American belief. For one thing, the U.S. is still overwhelmingly religious, despite years of predictions about religion’s demise. A significant number of people who don’t identify with any particular faith group still say they believe in God, and roughly 40 percent pray daily or weekly. While there have been changes in this kind of private belief and practice, the most significant shift has been in the way people publicly practice their faith: Americans, and particularly young Americans, are less likely to attend services or identify with a religious group than they have at any time in recent memory.