Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Hope Blogging

Congress is contemplating some large-scale conservation programs:

With little fanfare, Congress has embarked on a push to protect as many as a dozen pristine areas this year in places ranging from the glacier-fed streams of the Wild Sky Wilderness here to West Virginia's Monongahela National Forest. By the end of the year, conservation experts predict, this drive could place as much as 2 million acres of unspoiled land under federal control, a total that rivals the wilderness acreage set aside by Congress over the previous five years.
The DoJ has ruled that Social Security must recognize the children of gay couples:
The federal Defense of Marriage Act prevents Washington from recognizing or providing benefits to same-sex couples, but it does not explicitly address the benefits of children of such couples.
An anti-gay group in Maine has given up on trying to overturn an anti-discrimination bill:
"We're pulling the plug," Michael Heath, executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, said Thursday in Augusta. The group failed to attract the voter, volunteer and financial support it needed to continue its campaign, he said.

The group collected only a third of the 15,000 voter signatures it had set as a goal for primary election day June 10, Heath said. Citing tags opponents had applied to initiative backers, he said potential volunteers "don't want to be aligned with bigotry and homophobia and hatred."
Funny how that works, eh?

New research suggests that private vice doesn't necessarily lead to public virtue:
Six day care centers imposed a fine on parents who picked their children up late. The effect? Tardiness doubled, and it stayed high even when the fine was removed. Parents, it seems, stopped seeing lateness as an imposition on teachers, and instead saw it as something that could be purchased with no moral failing.

Another example is a study this year which showed that women donated blood less frequently when they were paid for it than when it was an act of charity.

These examples show that economists ignore human altruism at their peril. Standard economic theory assumes that incentives that appeal to self-interest won't affect any natural altruism that may exist, but that assumption is clearly wrong.
Apropos of which, new research suggests that great apes can think ahead:
Two female chimpanzees and one male orangutan, from Lund University Primate Research Station at Furuvik Zoo, were shown a hose and how to use it to extract fruit soup. They were then tempted with their favorite fruit alongside the hose to test their ability to suppress the choice of the immediate reward (favorite fruit) in favor of a tool (the hose) that would lead to a larger reward 70 minutes later on (the fruit soup). The apes chose the hose more frequently than their favorite fruit suggesting that they are able to make choices in favor of future needs, even when they directly compete with an immediate reward.
Western conservationists are working with their Iranian counterparts to protect the rare Asiatic cheetah:
Hunter, an Australian, said he believed "both Iranians and Americans realize that we cannot afford to allow politics to affect the cheetahs. If we did, we could lose them."

Iranian officials expressed similar views.

"I love anybody who works for conservation and wildlife protection. It doesn't matter who it is," said Ali Akhbar Karimi, a 59-year-old veteran from Iran's Department of Environment in Yazd province.

In related news, France has canceled $20 million of Madagascar's debt in return for conservation efforts:
The new agreement is part of Madagascar’s ambitious national effort, pledged by President Ravalomanana, to triple the size of the country’s protected areas. The funds will be managed through the Foundation for Protected Areas and Biodiversity—a conservation trust fund established by WWF, Conservation International and the Government of Madagascar to support the country’s distinct ecosystems and extraordinary wildlife. With this agreement, the fund has reached its endowment target of $50 million.
Certain members of the prosperity-hating, anti-capitalist Warming Cult are calling for more government action on climate change:
Detailed climate change recommendations to the Group of Eight leaders, backed by an influential group of CEOs from many of the world’s largest companies, were delivered today to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda of Japan, who will host the G8’s annual summit next month in Hokkaido, Japan....

In their recommendations, the CEOs urge adoption of a rapid and fundamental strategy by governments to bring about a low-carbon world economy. They call on the G8 and other developed country governments to provide leadership through deep absolute cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG)...
Of course, they're really just looking for relevance after the fall of Communism. It's kind of sad, when you think about it. (That goes double for Effect Measure, which has been trying to explain the basic science of climate change in terms that laypeople can easily understand.)

A new study suggests that latrines are preferable to toilets in many parts of the world:
[I]nstalling water-guzzling appliances such as toilets can actually promote unsanitary conditions when the effluent is discharged untreated into once-clean rivers and streams. A properly built latrine, on the other hand, keeps sewage safely separate from drinking water.

"Our challenge has been to look at what interventions make the most difference," Watkins said. Their findings show that small changes can be more important in preserving health than big engineering projects....
Inhabitat alerts us to yet another new wind-turbine design:
The AeroCam’s unique design allows Broadstar to manufacture, transport, and install, and maintain it at lower costs than conventional turbines. A 250kW system will retail for $250,000, making it the world’s first turbine to break the $1/watt cost barrier. The AeroCam is designed to operate smoothly in wind-speeds from 4-80 mph, and these low rotational speeds mean that it produces a negligible amount of noise.

Activists in Portland, OR are trying to depave unused parking lots, and have already had one heartening success:
Hundreds of conference participants helped break and remove asphalt from a 3,000 square foot parking will continue to work with Goldsmith Properties to transform this now asphalt-free site into a community greenspace. Once completed, the site will be used to educate the public about pavement removal and storm water drainage management.
Americans are driving a lot less in recent months:
For the sixth-straight month, the number of miles Americans drove declined, by a cumulative total of 30 billion miles from November to April, the Federal Highway Administration reported Wednesday. That's the biggest decrease since the oil shock of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Here's an odd idea:
Taiwanese inventor Peng Yu-Lun believes that trains are more energy inefficient than they have to be, hobbled ecologically by the totally unnecessary task of having to stop to pick up passengers. To counter the problem, he has invented a concept for a constantly moving train, or a "non-stop MRT system."
AfriGadget reports on reuse and recycling among Kenyan ironworkers:
Even more interesting to me (probably because it moved and did stuff with fire), was the bicycle-turned-to-bellows that kept the fire going that would heat the metal rods. It’s a fairly simple, yet ingenious contraption that utilizes old materials with a little bit of engineering. The thing runs all day, every day too, so it’s made to last.
Last, you can now opt out of receiving phone books.

That's about it for this week. Except, of course, for some examples of early scientific film at The Bioscope (you might want to read the article on Kinemacolor, too). And Archetypal Nature. And Ernie Gehr's Eureka. And a generous collection of Chinese Paper Gods.

Also: The earliest known Intertubes. The earliest known example of computer music. And he most recent known issue of Polar Inertia.

Here's a movie for you, too.

(Photo at top via Stuck in Customs.)

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