Archive for September 15th, 2009
Scientist/writer David Horton describes it as a mistake that we have talked about “species evolving” when discuss evolution. He considers this “an easy mistake to make, and you can see why we made it, but it has proved fatal.” He argues that biologists have unwittingly confused the creationists with talk of species evolving.
So if I was writing biology text books for use in Texas or Kentucky or Missouri schools I think I would join their education authorities in demanding that the word evolution not be mentioned. Instead I would put all of my effort into explaining speciation. Show how that original bacterium could become 2, 4, 8, 20, 30, 60 … species. Could become, even after losing tens of thousands of species along the way, the tens of thousands of species, including humans, chimps, and bacteria, we see today.
Instead of focusing on natural selection, which Horton considers “too obvious,” he would stress the importance of allopatric speciation:
Allopatric speciation is simply this – if one part of a species becomes separated by a geographic barrier (a mountain range forms, sea level rises, a desert comes into being, a river changes course, a landslide falls, a continent moves, a glacier extends), and stays separate long enough, then its members will no longer be able to breed with the other part of the population and it will therefore have become a different species. Doesn’t matter why it becomes different – just an accumulation of mutations might do the trick . . .
“We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” –Supreme Court Justice Lous D. Brandeis
For all the discussion of “green shoots” and an economy on the mend, there’s plenty of data and commentary to the contrary. What’s interesting to me, is that recent developments only highlight the extent to which Main Street economics have become irrelevant to Wall Street.
The administration is claiming that the crisis is largely over, and that it’s time to breathe a sigh of relief. President Obama yesterday argued that “we can be confident that the storms of the past two years are beginning to break.” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner discussed last week beginning to wind down some of the programs that were implemented in the heat of the crisis late last year. The value of the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen from its July low of 8146, and is now trading around 9600. Everything seems well and good in the world of high-finance.
But others see it differently. Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz argued this week that nothing has been done to address the underlying banking problems that created the mess in the first place, adding that “the problems are worse than they were in 2007 before the crisis.” Simon Johnson, former chief economist of the IMF, echoes that sentiment, and points out that the real issues underlying the crisis have not been addressed at all. He lays out 4 areas of concern:
- The big banks need to be made to be dramatically smaller.
- Executives need to have a great deal of their personal wealth tied up in their banks to prevent a reckless focus on short-term results.
- An end to the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington, DC. “There is no way people should be able to go directly (or even overnight) from a failing bank to designing bailout packages to benefit such banks. In any other industry, in any other country, and at any other time in American history, this would have been seen as an unconscionable conflict of interest. “
- The financial elite is aware that they are able to exploit the Federal Reserve and use it as a “bailout machine”.
Media Education Foundation has released a new documentary called “Blind Spot” which
explores the inextricable link between the energy we use, the way we run our economy, and the multiplying threats that now confront the environmental health and stability of our planet. Taking as its starting point the inevitable energy depletion scenario known as “Peak Oil,” the film surveys a fascinating range of the latest intellectual, political, and scientific thought to make the case that by whatever measure of greed, wishful thinking, neglect, or ignorance, we now find ourselves at a disturbing crossroads: we can continue to burn fossil fuels and witness the collapse of our ecology, or we can choose not to and witness the collapse of our economy. Refusing to whitewash this reality, Blind Spot issues a call to action, urging us to face up to the perilous situation we now find ourselves in so that we might begin to envision a realistic, if inconvenient, way out.
You can watch a ten-minute excerpt here. By watching it, I learned that:
- The U.S. now has more prisoners than farmers.
- Corn ethanol is energy negative (making it uses more energy than burning it).
- It takes 30 calories of energy to bring one calorie of lettuce from California to the average plate.
- The average item of food travels 1,500 hundred miles to your plate.
- The concept of peak oil (essentially, that we are running out of cheap oil), is still ignored or rejected by most businesses, governments and individuals.
Have we “fixed” the problem that lead to the financial collapse of the U.S.? Not at all, according this article in Bloomberg.
Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize- winning economist, said the U.S. has failed to fix the underlying problems of its banking system after the credit crunch and the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.
“In the U.S. and many other countries, the too-big-to-fail banks have become even bigger,” Stiglitz said in an interview today in Paris. “The problems are worse than they were in 2007 before the crisis.”