1/3 of all fruit & vegetables produced annually are thrown away because they appear marked or spoiled. A new edible food coating–already in use–helps food last 2-3 times longer and can cut down on food waste.
Weather forecasting has improved; accurate forecasts can now be made for 10 days in the future. But, there appears to be a limit. Tiny atmospheric disruptions cause models to diverge after 2 weeks; 14-15 days may be the ultimate limit to weather prediction.
Sea levels are rising globally from melting ice and warming oceans. The impacts are huge. But, there is another factor–sinking land especially in river deltas. Louisiana, USA is an example; the land is sinking due to compacting soil and groundwater, oil, and gas extraction.
On the surface, the answer is “yes.” We vote in the millions sometimes to elect and even reelect politicians who patently will say and do anything to get elected, clearly care more for themselves than those they had pledged to “help”, and routinely line their pockets at public expense. We vote against our own economic benefit and we tolerate legislation that helps the few over the many. And, we do this over and over again.
Why do we do this?
Research points at the corrosive effects on individuals and on society of Internet social media. Algorithm-driven thought bubbles push us into distinct groups suspicious of and sometimes violent toward those who think or worship or speak or look differently.
Sometimes, the world today seems to be unraveling; all the news is bad. No one can get along.
Is there a positive way forward? Is there any hope for the future?
Fast forward 550 years–the 1990’s; the Internet becomes widely, publicly, commercially available. In step with that, satellite/cell phones become ubiquitous. Suddenly (in 10-15 years), literally everyone wherever they are–rich and poor–are connected to a network that takes them outside their immediate area. People can communicate across the globe.
In the past 25-30 years, our world has undergone almost unimaginable technological change–and the greatest of that has centered around how people can communicate, receive, and send information. What we are living through is the stuff of wild science fiction.
George Orwell’s1984 used to be a symbol of a distant, speculative technologically and politically repressive future … and now “1984” is a good 35 years in the past. We have and are living it; we are beyond “1984”, and it has turned out to be a much more complex, dangerous, and beneficial time.
Are we too gullible? Yes … but maybe because we are learning once again–as a society and, for the first time, as a world–to communicate with each other. The Internet and social media has almost swept away the habits and customs of past millennia. So now we have to learn how to do it effectively all over again.
And, we will … but, we are only about one generation into the process; the speed of technological change is much faster than the speed of human change. We will get there eventually; it may take another one to two generations and maybe more.
Unfortunately, this great “communication change” is occurring at the same time as climate change and ongoing technological change (including impending job automation). Any one of these means profound societal shift; all three at the same time brings great uncertainty, great stress, great risk, great danger … but also incredible opportunity and possible incredible benefit for the many.
Weather extremes–a hallmark of climate change. Searing heat, wildfires, drought, electrical grids being overwhelmed, deaths, etc. in one place. Arctic cold, frostbite in minutes, school and college closings, city and county offices closed, states at a standstill, more deaths, etc. in another place … and both happening at the same time in different parts of the world.
“This is weather in the age of extremes. It comes on top of multiple extremes, all kinds, in all kinds of places.”
But, how can extreme cold be part of an overall global warming?
I write this from Newton, Iowa, USA–a place not unaccustomed or unprepared for cold weather. But, not accustomed and prepared for cold weather of this extreme. It was -22 F this morning (with a wind chill of -49). That’s 54 degrees F below average air temperature for January 30.
Climate change is here, it’s happening, and it is impacting every place. And, as with most disasters and upheavals, the poor and vulnerable suffer the most.
This is not a time for decision-makers to stick their heads in the sand …
(Somini Sengupta, New York Times, January 29, 2019)
In a study conducted in Borneo during the extreme drought of 2015-2016, researchers compared “widely scattered” plots of land within a tropical rainforest. In some of the plots, termites were removed; in other plots, the termites were left alone.
“In the plots with intact termite mounds and nests, soil moisture … was 36% higher during the drought than it was in plots where termite activity was disrupted.” In addition, the termites aided litter decomposition and soil nutrient content.
Termites like a moist environment and , if needed, “will dig down … to bring water up to their living spaces.”
Due to climate change, “droughts are expected to occur more frequently” all over the world. As a result, termites could play “an increasingly important role” in assisting current and future “rainforest productivity and biodiversity.” Everything has a role to play and some human attempts to eradicate termites may lead to unintended consequences …
Unless someone is completely self-absorbed and amoral, most people care for somebody, some group, or at least something besides themselves.
Research has shown that “people tend to empathize more readily with those who look, sound, and behave like themselves.” Note how the algorithm-driven thought bubbles of social media take advantage of and feed into this tendency.
Humans are not alone in being able to empathize–to feel the pain of others. Other animals can as well. Rats can do it–and are used in research to test this effect.
It is the social context that determines the extent of empathy–not the color and physical appearance.
What can this mean for us?
“Prejudice is not baked-in; it is the result of our ignorance.” “A failure to learn about people of different kinds”–immigrants, people who observe a different religion, who live in a different place, who speak a different language, who look different, who are of a different gender, who are a different sexual orientation, and on and on–can mean “we fail to recognize their pain as genuine pain.”