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Extreme Whether

July 18, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, David Swanson, Ecology

New Play Highlights Challenges of Climate Change 

by David Swanson

When my dad, Neil, goes to rallies against the tar sands pipeline, people rush up to him and thank him for everything he’s doing. They don’t actually have any idea what a great guy my dad is. It’s just that his Scandinavian face looks a lot like James Hansen’s.

Extreme WhetherSo, I already had a weird sort of family relationship to Hansen, whom I’ve never met, before I read Extreme Whether, a new play by the brilliant Karen Malpede that tells a personal story of Hansen in which everything is also political.

Hansen, of course, is the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and an outspoken advocate for putting a halt to global warming. Hansen warned Congress in the 1980s, revealed government deception in the 2000s, and has been speaking the truth, even more bluntly, if possible — and getting arrested for it — in recent years.

“Several times in Earth’s long history,” Hansen says, “rapid global warming of several degrees occurred.… In each case more than half of plant and animal species went extinct. New species came into being over tens and hundreds of thousands of years. But these are time scales and generations that we cannot imagine. If we drive our fellow species to extinction we will leave a far more desolate planet for our descendants than the world that we inherited from our elders.… And if you melt all the ice, sea levels will go up two hundred and fifty feet … producing a different planet.” (more…)

No Patents on Life

June 28, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Devon G. Pena, Ecology

Supreme Court Ruling Could Change Debate Over Transgenic Crops

by Devon G. Peña

In a historic 9-0 ruling on June 13th, the Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS) rejected the patent claims of a private corporation, Myriad Genetics, which claimed that it held ownership of a gene that is associated with breast cancer. Use this link for the full text of the ruling: Association for Molecular Pathology, et al v. Myriad Genetics, et al.

The rare unanimous opinion was actually written by Justice Clarence Thomas who firmly rejected Myriad’s assertion that the DNA it isolated from the human body for its tests were patentable. Explaining the ruling for the court, Justice Thomas wrote: “We hold that a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated.” Myriad Genetics patented the genes sequence in question — BRCA1 and BRCA2 — in 1995.

Myriad, which is now based in Salt Lake City, Utah, had patented the gene based on research conducted by Nary Clair King, at the time a professor at University of California-Berkeley and now a University of Washington Professor of Genome Sciences. (more…)

Dropping Like Flies?

February 20, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Devon G. Pena, Ecology

Applying the Precautionary Principle to GMOs 

by Devon G. Peña

We have been hearing a lot of protests lately from the pro-GMO camp about the ‘proven’ safety of genetically engineered foods. The most typical narrative comes in the form of a quote from a 2012 report issued by the respected and highly influential American Medical Association (AMA) and its Council on Science and Public Health. Here’s the proffered quote, which reveals the current dominant discursive frame used in defense of transgenic food safety:

Bioengineered foods have been consumed for close to 20 years, and during that time, no overt consequences on human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature. However, a small potential for adverse events exists, due mainly to horizontal gene transfer, allergenicity, and toxicity.” (AMA 2012:i)

The AMA position has led many defenders of biotechnology to dismiss critics with a wave of the hand and repetition of a statement made by Mark Tester of the University of Adelaide: “If the effects are as big as purported…why aren’t all the North Americans dropping like flies?” (more…)

To Divine Is Human

February 11, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Nancy Mattina

In the Beginning There Was Science…

by Nancy Mattina

Despite all the ardent prose glowing from the electronic gadgets that surround me, I still find myself browsing my undusted shelves for something to read. I rarely buy bound books anymore, which is why my collection of mostly paperback editions reflects the quirky canon I came of age on: Henry Miller, Kazantzakis, Joyce Carol Oates, James, Zola, Gordimer, Bellow, Steinbeck, Austen, Heinlein, Flaubert, Dostoyevsky, and the like. These wistful sentinels have long lined my walls, the listing pillars of my literary crèche, the ones who expected me to think about the world as it was, is, and might be. I don’t sell them off even though the words in them have since ascended spotlessly to the digital cloud. (more…)

Give Peace a Chance

November 12, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Patrick T. Hiller, Politics

‘Big Stick’ Ideology Becoming Irrelevant in Light of Peace Science

by Patrick T. Hiller

“Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far” was a trademark description of Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy. To no surprise the recent electoral season turned politicians into stick-carrying hunters, only now it doesn’t seem necessary to speak softly.

In political and even in broader public discourse we are discussing strategies of war when talking about peace. Strength can only be conveyed through military might. Presidential candidate Romney’s ideas for a “peaceful planet” require us to be strong, to have a strong military, second to none in the world with its terrific soldiers and extraordinary technology and intelligence and to have growing influence in the world. Similarly, President Obama states that America remains the one indispensable nation, that the world needs a strong America, that military spending has gone up every single year he’s been in office, and that the United States spends more on its military than the next 10 countries combined. In fact, the research of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute proves that our spending is more than the next 15 countries combined — not that it matters. Without overemphasizing the presidential debates, my point should be clear. (more…)

Otherworldy Dreams

October 30, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Evaggelos Vallianatos

On Religion and Technology in America

by Evaggelos Vallianatos

Garry Wills, professor of American history and author of Bomb Power, says that the atomic and nuclear bomb remade the country into a National Security State fostering perpetual emergency, secrecy and war.

“Secrecy,” says Wills, “emanated from the Manhattan Project like a giant radiation emission.” Indeed, Wills argues very persuasively that the Manhattan Project turned out to be not merely a “fatal miracle” because it created the “awesome” bomb but also because of the processes it set in place:

“The military-industrial complex, with a poisonous admixture of government and secrecy, had scored a triumph that would show the way to many other governmental activities… The secrecy that had enveloped Los Alamos [building the bomb] would steal quietly across the entire American landscape in the years to come.”

According to Wills, the other inevitable result of the bomb was that it gave the president supreme power. He alone could decide the fate of the world.

(more…)

In Defense of Tumbleweeds

October 08, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Walt Anderson

Reflections of Ourselves in Coping with an ‘Invasive Species’

by Walt Anderson

Drifting along, like a tumbling tumbleweed.  That catchy tune warbled by the Sons of the Pioneers somehow epitomizes nostalgia for the Old West.  Never mind that the tumbleweed is a carpetbagger, an interloper, an émigré otherwise known as Russian thistle.  I’ve heard tell that the Russkies sent it here as a kind of biological weapon, a plague on our plains, a prickly infestation designed to lay waste to our grasslands, to overwhelm us with its ability to take any of our attacks against it and come back stronger than ever.  Where is the real truth here?

As an ecologist, I am always suspicious of introduced species.  What are they outcompeting?  What natives suffer at the advancing wave of heavily armed hordes of aggressive Salsola? (more…)


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