Sanjay Reddy writes: The administration of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) – which Nobel prize winners Duflot and Banerjee helped pioneer – has suffered from more than a whiff of neocolonial attitudes. Arguably, all of the difficulties of RCTs stem from a single source: a failure to recognize the full personhood of those who are affected by interventions.
science & research
Hello. Allow me to introduce myself. I am a Carbon atom, writing in the hope that the intelligence operating here might be able and willing to come to our aid. In particular, I am acting on behalf of the many Carbon atoms – who are contently resting in peace, unaware that they’re in great danger.
Ayushi Uppal writes: While the concept of Anthropocene remains contested, there is consensus on the human-led changes to the climate and the need for intervention. Humanity must create a pathway from a possible ‘Hothouse earth’ to a ‘Stabilized Earth’ state, where human activities create biogeophysical feedbacks that sustain the Earth System within the planetary threshold.
From The Guardian: A recent scientific study has found that 42% of fields in Britain surveyed by farmers were seriously deficient in earthworms; in some fields they were missing altogether. Particularly hard-hit were deep-burrowing worms, which are valuable in helping soil collect and store rainwater, but were absent from 16% of fields in the study. Jules
When thinking about climate solutions, people often picture technical fixes. In principle, scientists and engineers could deploy any these–but should they? To answer this, society needs the humanities and its intangible tools, argues Steven Allison & Tyrus Miller. Also included, a talk on ‘Climate Change and the Humanities’ by Subaltern Studies pioneer Dr Dipesh Chakrabarty.
From The New York Times: Scientist Monica Gagliano’s botanical research, which has broken boundaries in the field of plant behavior, indicate that plants are, to some extent, intelligent. Her experiments suggest that they can learn behaviors and remember them. Her work also suggests that plants can “hear” running water and even produce clicking noises, perhaps to communicate.
From The Atlantic: When Leuzinger saw the stump on a walk with fellow botanist Martin Bader, his head turned. He saw that even though it had no leaves, stems, or greenery of any kind, it did still contain living tissue—and when he knocked, it sounded different from deadwood. All appearances to the contrary, it’s still alive. But how?
David B. Lauterwasser writes: Very few people today think that our global civilization is on the brink of collapse. Most of the news consist of disturbing stories on increasingly overwhelming issues that, plainly spoken, seem impossible to solve. And yet, no one even recognizes that it is collapse that’s started to unfold all around us.
The irony couldn’t be crueler. Even as large parts of India battle floods, a new report has ranked the country 13th among “extremely highly water-stressed” nations. Alarming news, since India has “three times the population of the other 17 combined”. Former Water Resources chief Shashi Shekhar casts a knowing eye on India’s ballooning water crisis.
From BBC: “The climate math is brutally clear: While the world can’t be healed within the next few years, it may be fatally wounded by negligence until 2020,” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founder of the Potsdam Climate Institute. The sense is that the end of next year is the last chance saloon for climate change.
From Trophic Tales: The focus on the welfare of individual domesticated animals might be an extension of the modernist tendency to simplify and discriminate. The morality of living, eating, and dying is more complex than two-word slogans can prescribe. If we care about animals —wild or domesticated— we’ve to think in terms of entire ecosystems.
“I sprouted, thrust into this world without anyone consulting me…” Thus starts US Astronaut Don Pettit’s quasi-fictional account of ten days in the life of a plant growing on the International Space Station. Among other things, the plant expresses its growing awareness of people it interacts with, and the fact that they eat its ‘kind’.
From NewsClick: The Anthropocene Working Group (AWG), a panel that consists of 34 scientists and academics, has voted in favour of making the Anthropocene a formally defined geological unit within the official geological time scale. The term ‘Anthropocene’ denotes the current geological period, where many conditions and processes on Earth are altered by impacts of human activities.
By Dahr Jamail: Permafrost, or frozen soil in the Arctic is now thawing so fast that scientists are literally losing their measuring equipment. This is due to the fact that instead of there being just a few centimeters of thawing each year, now several meters of soil can become destabilized in a matter of days.
The most disquieting thing wasn’t the disappearance of certain insect species; it was the deeper worry that a whole insect world might be quietly going missing, a loss of abundance that could alter the planet in unknowable ways. “We notice the losses,” says David Wagner. “It’s the diminishment that we don’t see.” (New York Times)
Native American scientist Robin Wall Kimmerer tells the story of mosses, the first plants to develop the ability to live on land. Unlike other plants they can survive long periods of drought in a condition of dessication – dry, brittle, brown – then spring back to life as soon as a drop of rain hits
From PeakProsperity.com: Many people are expecting some degree of approaching collapse — be it economic, environmental and/or societal — thinking that they’ll recognize the danger signs in time. As if it’ll be completely obvious, like a Hollywood blockbuster. That’s not how collapse works. Collapse is a process, not an event. And it’s already underway, all around us.
From The Revelator: In the year ahead we all need to stand up and let our elected officials and unelected corporate power-brokers know what really matters to us and to the planet. We need to demand transparency and the truth, rapid change, renewed protections for imperiled species and a commitment to sustainability on all fronts.
From Vox.com: Sri Lanka is perhaps the most famous case of suicides falling after a selective pesticide ban. One study estimated that the suicide rate in the country fell by half after it banned certain pesticides in 1995. According to the World Health Organization, at least 110,000 people commit suicide by consuming pesticides each year.
From The Independent: Capitalism as we know it is over. So suggests a new report commissioned by a group of scientists appointed by the UN secretary general. The main reason? We’re transitioning rapidly to a radically different global economy, due to our increasingly unsustainable exploitation of the planet’s environmental resources and the shift to less efficient energy sources.