Sometimes the best measure of a movement’s momentum is the reaction of its critics. When, in early October, the Australian National University (ANU) announced that it would sell its shares in seven fossil-fuel and mining companies, it triggered a chorus of criticism from the country’s conservative politicians.
These nominal champions of the free market were quick to tell the university what it should do with its money. The Treasurer of Australia, Joe Hockey, disparaged the ANU’s decision as being “removed from reality.” Others chimed in, calling it “a disgrace,” “very strange,” and “narrow-minded and irresponsible.” Never mind that the sums involved were relatively small – making up less than 2% of the university’s estimated $1 billion portfolio.
As the drive to divest from fossil fuels picks up speed, such panicky responses are becoming increasingly common. The outrage of Australia’s conservatives reminds me of the reaction I received when I testified before the US Congress in 2013 that we should “keep our coal in the ground where it belongs.” David McKinley, a Republican congressman from West Virginia, in the heart of America’s coal country, replied that my words “sent a shiver up [his] spine,” then changed the subject to the crime rate in Seattle, where I was Mayor.
…The fossil-fuel industry clearly sees the divestment movement as the political threat that it is. When enough people say no to investing in fossil-fuel production, the next step has to be keeping coal, oil, and gas in the ground.
That is a necessary step if we are to head off the most dangerous consequences of climate change. To prevent world temperatures from rising above the 2º Celsius threshold that climate scientists believe represents a tipping point beyond which the worst effects could no longer be mitigated, we will need to leave approximately 80% of known fossil-fuel reserves untapped…
…reality implies another compelling case for divestment. To be sure, some will claim that the world will never change and that we will continue to depend on fossil fuels forever. But one has only to look to Seattle, where gay couples marry in City Hall and marijuana is sold in licensed retail outlets, to see the human capacity to reexamine deeply held assumptions. The prudent investor, and the wise business leader, will look where the economy is headed, not where it has been.
We need more courage like that shown by the ANU. Its leaders bucked the power of coal and oil interests, which wield enormous power in Australia. If they can do it to popular acclaim, others can, too.
Sunsets are always pretty. One sunset this month could be out of this world. On Thursday, Oct. 23rd, the setting sun across eastern parts of the USA will be red, beautiful and … crescent-shaped.
“It’s a partial solar eclipse,” explains longtime NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak. In other words, the New Moon is going to ‘take a bite’ out of the sun…
The partial eclipse of Oct. 23rd will be visible from all of the United States except Hawaii and New England. Coverage ranges from 12% in Florida to nearly 70% in Alaska. Weather permitting, almost everyone in North America will be able to see the crescent.
The eclipse will be especially beautiful in eastern parts of the USA, where the Moon and sun line up at the end of the day, transforming the usual sunset into something weird and wonderful…
A partial eclipse may not be total, but it is totally fun.
See for yourself on Oct. 23rd. The action begins at approximately 6 pm on the east coast, and 2 pm on the west coast. Check NASA’s Eclipse Home Page for viewing times near your hometown.
The scientists…at the Centre for Brain Repair and Rehabilitation at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, have tested the hypothesis that increased physical activity stimulates learning and improves school performance.
In the study, published in the scientific periodical “Journal of School Health,” 408 twelve-year-olds in the Gothenburg region were given two hours of extra play and motion activities per week, in collaboration with a local sports club. This was approximately twice the normal amount of curricular physical activity.
The effect of the intervention was evaluated by comparing the achievement of national learning goals by the children four years before and five years after its implementation. The results were compared to control groups in three schools that did not receive extra physical activity.
The results are clear, according to the scientists: A larger proportion on students in the intervention school did achieve the national learning goals in all subjects examined — Swedish, English and mathematics compared to the control groups.
“You can express it that two hours of extra physical education each week doubled the odds that a pupil achieves the national learning goals. We did not see a corresponding improvement in the control schools, where the pupils did not receive extra physical activity — rather the contrary, a deterioration,” says scientist and neurologist Thomas Linden at the Sahlgrenska Academy.
“Our hope is that planners and policy-makers will take our results into consideration,” says Lina Bunketorp Käll the researcher and project leader of the study.
Guess what? In Sweden that might actually happen.
In a parallel effort, a planned 5-story elementary school was changed to a 4-story school as built. Instead the building was constructed around an atrium for exercise and dance with running tracks on the rooftop. In China.
In an effort to bring reliable electricity supplies to emerging regions and remote island communities, Panasonic has developed an expandable, portable, self-contained photovoltaic system. The “Power Supply Container” comes equipped with 12 of Panasonic’s HIT240 solar modules on the roof and generates approximately 3 kW of electricity, with 24 lead-acid batteries capable of storing 17.2 kWh of energy used to store excess electricity…
The self-contained units were designed to be portable, easy to assemble and not require any professional construction work to get them up and running. Panasonic also notes the container’s form allows it to be moved with relative ease. They are being manufactured by PT. Panasonic Gobel ES Manufacturing Indonesia, which is aiming to lower the price of the units through mass production.
As part of Indonesia’s “Educational Environment Improvement Policy for Isolated Islands,” the first location set by Panasonic for trials of the Power Supply Container is the National Elementary School in Karimunjawa, an archipelago of 27 islands in the Java Sea, Indonesia. Panasonic chose Indonesia as a test region because of the country’s approximately 13,000 islands, many of which either lack electricity altogether because of power generation and development issues or whose access to reliable electricity is limited…
According to Panasonic, power to the school will be sourced from the energy-generating containers during the day, but excess electricity generated outside of school hours will be supplied to the local community. Over the next few years, Panasonic plans to continue developing and implementing its Power Supply Container program in an effort to bring secure and reliable, 24 hour electricity to other Asian countries and emerging regions.
Another example of how dramatically the cost of off-the-shelf solar power components is dropping, availability increasing. I’m encouraged.
I think if Konosuke Matsushita were still alive he would be pleased.
Voters…are returning to faith in cradle to grave welfare after eight years of center-right Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who cut income, wealth and corporate taxes. Sweden’s tax burden has fallen by four percentage points of GDP – now lower than France.
In the eyes of many Swedes, the welfare state withered. Sickness and unemployment benefits were cut. Private firms started to run tax-funded schools and hospitals. But a tipping point may have come as a September general election approaches – and many now point to a U-turn…
By any standards, Sweden is healthy. Its public debt is around 40 percent of GDP, half of Germany’s.
But Sweden has one of the world’s most generous welfare states – like subsidized child care with up to 480 days of parental leave per child. Its Nordic model depends on keeping to a strict national bookkeeping unusual in much of Europe…
At the same time as demands grow for more spending on schools and hospitals, Sweden’s public finances have worsened. The country may now be heading for years of rising tax burdens if it wants to keep its public finances in order.
Flush from income tax cuts, middle classes have also enjoyed cheap loans and a property boom. As wealth grew – with clusters of Michelin star restaurants in Stockholm – Sweden remained one of the few economies in Europe with the top AAA credit rating. It also has the fastest growing economic inequality of any OECD nation…
Fewer U.S. Republicans believe in evolution now than five years ago, with a Pew Research poll finding an 11 percentage point drop…43 percent of Republican respondents said they believe humans have evolved over time, a drop from 54 percent in 2009, a Pew release said Monday.
Sixty-seven percent of Democratic respondents said they believe in evolution, a rise of 3 percent from 2009.
Not a surprise. Why would anyone – even a conservative – with a bit of science education and understanding stay in a political party dominated nowadays by religious nutballs and economic ostriches?
Party differences remained even when factors such as the racial and ethnic composition, and religious and educational background of the political groups were taken into account, the Pew researchers said.
“It’s an intriguing finding that is suggestive of greater polarization,” Cary Funk of the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project and Social & Demographic Trends project told NBC News.
Fits the standard one-liner among coneheads I know who work at a nearby national laboratory, e.g., 94% of scientists are atheists. The other 6% are Republicans.
Three-quarters of U.S. adults say they believe in God, down from 82 percent in 2005, 2007 and 2009, a Harris Poll indicates.
The Harris Poll found 57 percent of U.S. adult say they believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, down from 60 percent in 2005, and 72 percent say they believe in miracles, down from 79 percent in 2005, while 68 percent say they believe in heaven, down from 75 percent. Sixty-eight percent say they believe Jesus is God or the son of God, down from 72 percent; and 65 percent say they believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, down from 70 percent.
Forty-seven percent say they believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution, compared to 42 percent in 2005.
The survey found 42 percent of adults say they believe in ghosts, 36 percent say they believe in creationism, 36 percent say they believe in UFOs, 29 percent say they believe in astrology, 26 percent say they believe in witches and 24 percent say they believe in reincarnation, or that they were once another person.
Just under 2-in-10 U.S. adults described themselves as very religious, with an additional 4-in-10 describing themselves as somewhat religious down from 49 percent in 2007. Twenty-three percent of Americans identified themselves as not at all religious, nearly double the 12 percent reported in 2007.
Cripes. If we keep this up we may catch up with the rest of the civilized Western World in a couple of decades or so. Too bad they left out who believes the Earth is flat.
US pregnancy rates continue to decline, with only 102 pregnancies per 1,000 women in 2009, a 12-year low.
According to the report released by the National Center for Health Statistics, a steady decline in pregnancy rates has been observed from 1990, when the rate was 116 per 1,000 women. The lowest pregnancy rate in the last 30 years was in 1997 when the rate was 101.6 per 1,000 women.
Since 1990, the rate of pregnancy has fallen for women in their 20s, the largest group of pregnant women, and teens, while the pregnancy rate among women over 30 has increased steadily with every passing year.
“What happened was a postponement of births among younger women with a longer time horizon,” said Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University. “Women over 30 couldn’t wait that much longer.”
According to Sally Curtin, one of the report’s authors, part of the drop can be attributed to fewer teenagers having sex, and greater contraceptive use among those who do have sex.
The birth rate for married women was higher than the rate for unmarried women, while the abortion rate for unmarried women was almost five times higher than the rate for married women.
The 2009 abortion rate among teenagers, around 16 percent, has dropped to less than half the rate in 1990, which was 40.3 percent.
The original detailed study is over here.
American neo-cons fear informed, educated decisions. So much of the economics and ideology they believe can’t stand any sort of thorough examination much less the test of time. Ideology intertwined with religious beliefs that haven’t strayed far from the 14th Century. They really fear American women making those decisions.
But, women with education and understanding of their reproductive rights, constitutionally-guaranteed equal opportunity, the same rights to a career, family and individual achievement – throughout the industrial world – women often opt first and foremost to limit the time and circumstances of their life dedicated to child-bearing, child-rearing.
Nothing new about that. Though soft-minded journalists – usually male – can waste reams of newsprint and electrons in wonderment. Self-concern, self-guidance, occurs to women as readily as it does to men. It’s only a dazzling new phenomenon in a society which has bumbled along for millennia guided by only half the population. The half that doesn’t get pregnant.
Why, yes – I have a master’s degree in education
The fastest-growing jobs in the United States through 2017 are expected to be those requiring an advanced education, a study released Thursday found.
The report compiled by CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists International, says job creation will accelerate from 2013 to 2017 compared with 2009 to 2013, gaining 4.4 percent compared with 3.5 percent.
Jobs requiring an associate degree or a master’s degree are expected to grow 8 percent, the report says, while jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree — which generally takes four years and falls between associates and master’s degrees — are expected to grow 6 percent.
Jobs that require “short-term, on-the-job training trail at 4 percent,” the study projects.
In a list of jobs expected to grow 8 percent or more through 2017, personal care and home health aides top the list with growth expected at 21 percent.
Jobs for market research analyst and marketing specialists are expected to grow 14 percent, as are jobs for medical secretaries.
Jobs for emergency medical technicians and paramedics are projected to grow 13 percent, while jobs for software developers are projected to rise 11 percent.
The final job with double-digit growth expected is medical assistants, with growth of 10 percent predicted, CareerBuilder said…
The top 18 include, in descending order, registered nurses, network and computer systems administrators, pharmacy technicians, landscapers, and social and human services assistants, all expected to grow 9 percent, and computer systems analysts, management analysts, cooks, insurance agents, nursing assistants, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses and food preparation workers and servers, including fast-food, the report said.
Middle-aged? Stick to figuring out ways to survive. Sooner or later the cost of living will begin to accelerate to match the increases of those with growing income. If you want longer-term worries consider your kids and grandkids. The quality of K-12 education ain’t especially getting better inside the United States. Compared to other literate nations and competing with them for jobs, we’re in a deeper hole that’s on the way to becoming downright subterranean.
While there’s no shortage of pundits who finished their college years before malaise and a matching decline set in – they continue to praise the value of our advanced education. That will continue to sort out with underfunded public schools getting more and more of the student base and giving back less in return. Or so it seems.