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Oct 20, 2017, 02:05 PM
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 on: Oct 19, 2017, 05:15 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Modern-day slavery in focus: 'My dream is coming true': the Nepalese woman who rose from slavery to politics

Sita Chhaudry was sold as a slave at 10 years old. Starved, beaten and denied an education, she has since been elected to local government – and is determined to fight poverty and human rights abuses

Kate Hodal in Bardiya

Sita Chhaudry became a slave for the first time just after her 10th birthday. Almost every year over the next decade, her parents would sell her again and again to wealthy landowner families, for the small annual fee of $50 (£38), to clean floors, cook meals and look after children.

As a “kamlari” – domestic bonded labourer – Chhaudry was beaten, starved and forced to work 12-hour days for families across the country, many of whom had travelled long distances to “recruit” a young servant as cheaply as her poor, lower-caste parents would sell her.

The buying process would begin every year at the same time – the Maghi harvest festival in January. Prospective employers would haggle with indigenous Tharu families like Chhaudry’s over contracts, fees and requirements. This is where Chhaudry learned that her first job, aged 10, would be caring for a newborn baby in a wealthy family.

“I was a traumatised child,” says Chhaudry, now 30. “I used to wake up at 4am and spend all day working in fear of the family – whether they would shout at me or beat me, what leftover scraps I would be allowed to eat, or which outside space I might be allowed to sleep in, because I wasn’t allowed to enter their house.

“When I went to sleep, it was always in fear of what I may have done wrong that day, or what I might do wrong the next day.”

Today, Chhaudry’s life could not be more different. Freed from slavery a few years ago by a supreme court decree, she was recently elected as an official in Nepal’s first local elections in 20 years. It’s an incredible feat, given the country’s entrenched patriarchy and semi-feudal caste system.

Chhaudry – who never attended school or learned to read or write – plans on using her five-year government post to prove the value of both her indigenous Tharu community and women in Nepalese society.

“Despite being uneducated, I’ve been through a lot in life – and this is a huge opportunity for me, for women, and for minorities like us,” says Chhaudry at an adobe homein Saathbidggha, a 30-household community consisting entirely of former slaves like herself.

“We have more to deal with here than just poverty and monsoons. I want to identify all the issues – from poor infrastructure in schools to helping the elderly – and work to solve them.”

Change is definitely afoot in this Himalayan nation of 29 million, where women are paving the way towards greater equality and representation. With their husbands, sons and fathers largely working abroad – one-third of GDP comes from remittances, the highest in the world – Nepalese women have been thrust into economic and social independence, forced to look after themselves, their finances and their communities. An estimated 20,000 women stood in Nepal’s first round of elections in May, many of them under 30.

For Chhaudry, who spent her early years caring for her six younger siblings before becoming a kamlari, the fact that her daughters can go to school and eat regularly is a point of pride.

“I can’t blame my parents for what happened, because everyone was doing it,” she says of being sold into slavery. “There was no family planning or contraception, and most Tharu families were actively having more children because they could earn more money from selling them [each year].”

For generations, Tharu girls as young as six were sold or given away by their families in order to “repay” debts owed to higher-caste, landowning families. Tharu boys were forced to work as cattle herders or farmers under the indentured labour system, and daughters sold as kamlaris, for sums equivalent to as much as 20% of a family’s annual income. Although kamlaris were supposed to be fed, housed and educated, this was often not the case, and sexual, mental and physical abuse was common.

However, many families had little choice. Falki, 60, a former slave, was forced to sell her five daughters into the kamlari system to keep the rest of her family out of abject poverty, a decision she regrets to this day.

“My youngest was 14 when the family [she was working for] informed me she was ill and I should come and get her,” says Falki, fighting back tears. “It took us many days to travel there. When we arrived, we were taken straight to the hospital morgue. The police said my daughter had hanged herself from the rafters inside the house and that they wouldn’t investigate. The family kept saying they never touched her, she was just depressed. But how would I know if she had been raped or killed?”

Although all forms of bonded labour were officially banned in 2000, nationwide protests broke out in 2013 after police failed to investigate the suspicious death of a 12-year-old kamlari, who was doused in kerosene and burned alive in her employers’ home. Hundreds of girls are still believed to be living in slave-like conditions today, many in the homes of prominent politicians and businessmen, according to the Nepal Youth Foundation.

Under a government programme, some kamlaris were given land and housing materials in order to rebuild their lives after being freed from slavery. But having had no schooling or real-life experience, and with little chance of employment, many former kamlaris have ended up worse off than when they were slaves.

The village of Saathbidggha, where Chhaudry lives, is an example of the scheme’s failings. Built in a dusty zone in the middle of a river basin, it is prone to flooding during the monsoon season. This year, Chhaudry’s home was inundated by floodwater, forcing her to flee with her two daughters to an evacuation centre.

“The [government’s] decision to give former slaves their own land has ultimately caused as many problems as it sought to solve,” says Gopal Ghimire, a project manager at Practical Action Nepal, an NGO that has helped Chhaudry’s community learn about flood-warning systems and evacuation procedures.

“These communities lose everything when there is a natural disaster, so we are helping them evacuate more effectively when floods do occur so they can save some of their livelihood and not start from a position of zero after every disaster.”

Chhaudry is the community’s de facto leader and also charged with monitoring the flood warning system. She spends busy days looking after her children, organising meetings within the community and learning what it means to be a politician. She does all of this alone, as her husband, a former indentured labourer, works over the border in India as a restaurant chef.

“We have no choice but to be strong,” she says. “It is just us women here, as all the men are in India or in towns far away, and we are a tight-knit community.”

Another former kamlari, Kamala, says: “If you imagine a prime minister of a country, that is what she [Chhaudry] is for our community.”

Chhaudry laughs. “When I was a child, I used to see women on TV and think that if I’d just had the opportunity, I’d be one of them. Now my dream is coming true.”

 on: Oct 19, 2017, 05:12 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
'Unconscionable': 7,000 babies die daily despite record low for child mortality

Research shows that, despite ‘remarkable progress’ on child mortality, many of the 5.6 million deaths last year among children aged under five were preventable

Kate Lyons
Thursday 19 October 2017 00.24 BST

The number of children who die before reaching their fifth birthday has fallen to an all-time low, yet children around the world continue to die at an alarming rate, with 5.6 million deaths recorded last year.

In its annual report on child mortality, the UN said many of the deaths – which averaged 15,000 a day in 2016 – were from preventable diseases.

The report also warned that neonatal mortality – the death of babies in the first 28 days of life – is not decreasing at the same pace as mortality rates for children aged between one month and five years. Each day, a total of 7,000 babies die before they are 28 days old.

The total number of deaths of children under five has dropped substantially in recent decades, falling from 12.6 million in 1990 to 5.6 million last year, down from 5.9 million in 2015.

The report estimates that 50 million children would have died between 2000 and 2016 had under-five mortality rates remained static since 2000.

“The good news is that the world has made remarkable progress in reducing child mortality since 1990,” said Danzen You, coordinator of the UN inter-agency group for the child mortality estimation, and one of the report’s authors. “The number of deaths now is the lowest in history. That reduction is really remarkable … Because of the investments we made in the last decades, we really accelerated progress in saving newborns and children.”

However, You warned that much remains to be done. Child mortality rates in many countries fall short of national commitments under the sustainable development goals, which call for the reduction of under-five mortality to a maximum of 25 deaths for every 1,000 live births by 2030. The figure currently stands at 41 deaths for every 1,000 live births.

The country with the highest rate of under-five mortality was Somalia, with 133 deaths for every 1,000 live births. The UK has an under-five mortality rate of four deaths for every 1,000 live births.

There were huge disparities across countries and regions. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest under-five mortality rate, with 79 deaths for every 1,000 births, which translates to one child in 13 dying before their fifth birthday. This compares with six for every 1,000 in northern America and Europe and four for every 1,000 in Australia and New Zealand.

The same discrepancy is found when comparing mortality rates among babies. In sub-Saharan Africa, roughly one child in 36 dies in the first 28 days of life, while in high-income countries, the ratio is one in 333.

One million children each year die within 24 hours of being born, and close to 1 million die within the next six days of life.

Most deaths of newborns happened in southern Asia (39%) and sub-Saharan Africa (38%), with half of all newborn deaths happening in just five countries – India (24%), Pakistan (10%), Nigeria (9%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (4%) and Ethiopia (3%).

While children in the older end of the under-five age bracket are particularly at risk of infectious diseases, which can be successfully treated by vaccines, improving neonatal care, which often involves training of midwives and overhauling health systems, has been trickier.

Pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria accounted for almost one-third of deaths among under fives globally. Other leading causes of death among children under the age of five included pre-term birth complications and neonatal sepsis.

“It is unconscionable that in 2017, pregnancy and child birth are still life-threatening conditions for women, and that 7,000 newborns die daily,” said Tim Evans, senior director of health, nutrition and population at the World Bank Group. “The best measure of success for universal health coverage is that every mother should not only be able to access healthcare easily, but that it should be quality, affordable care that will ensure a healthy and productive life for her children and family.”

 on: Oct 19, 2017, 05:06 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Protect indigenous people to help fight climate change, says UN rapporteur

World leaders must do more to defend custodians of natural world whose lives are at risk from big business, says UN rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz

Matthew Taylor

Global leaders must do more to protect indigenous people fighting to protect their land and way of life if the world is to limit climate change, according to the UN special rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.

Speaking ahead of key climate talks in Bonn next month she urged politicians to recognise that indigenous communities around the world were the most effective custodians of millions of hectares of forest “which act as the world’s lungs”.

“Indigenous people’s rights need to be protected in the best way possible, not just for them but because they are also able to provide solutions to many of the world’s problems from climate change to biological diversity.

“It is in the self interest of states and even corporations in the medium and long term to protect and listen to these people – the question is, will they realise this in time?” said Tauli-Corpuz.

A recent study found that a quarter of the carbon stored above ground in the world’s tropical forests is found in the collectively managed territories of indigenous peoples and local communities.

In Brazil, deforestation in indigenous community forests from 2000 to 2012 was less than 1%, compared to 7% outside those areas.

“They are the most effective stewards of these key areas,” said Tauli-Corpuz. “The needs of these indigenous people are converging with the wider environmental needs to protect these areas.”

Indigenous people are locked in fierce conflicts with mining, logging and agricultural companies and their private security firms in hundreds of places from Indonesia to Brazil. 2016 was the deadliest year on record for land rights defenders with about 200 people killed in conflicts in Latin America, Africa and Asia. In addition, thousands more community activists were threatened or harassed. A Guardian project working with Global Witness is highlighting the pressure many of these groups face and has identified at least 134 people who have been killed so far this year.

Tauli-Corpuz, who was speaking at the launch of a new global institution dedicated to securing the land rights of tens of millions of indigenous people, said there was an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in many of these communities.

The event in Stockholm was the official launch of the International Land and Forest Tenure Facility which aims to help communities protect their land resources as well as combat climate change.

Funded by Sweden, Norway and the Ford Foundation, a US charity, the Tenure Facility, has already provided grants and guidance for pilot projects in six nations.

The Ford Foundation president Darren Walker said it was an important development in the fight against climate change and inequality. “Creating mechanisms that allow indigenous peoples and local communities to gain tenure over their land or forests is a way to tackle both these problems.”

The Ford Foundation has pledged $5m, and Norway has announced a grant of $20m over the coming years. Sweden pitched in $10m during the pilot phase and will fund future projects. Walker said he expects donations to rise to $100m overall within a year.

The project aims to boost forestland properly titled to indigenous peoples by 40m hectares, an area twice the size of Spain, within a decade. Organisers say this would prevent deforestation of 1m hectares and the release of 500m tonnes of CO2, more than the annual emissions of Britain or Brazil.

Indigenous leaders representing tens of millions of people involved in land disputes in Asia, Africa and South America attended the conference. They said the tenure programme was an important step towards stopping the persecution of indigenous communities – but warned more needs to be done.

Rukka Sombolinggi, the first female secretary-general of the world’s largest indigenous organisation, Aman, which represents 17 million people in Indonesia, said: “Our houses are being burnt down, people are being killed, tortured, and sent to jail as we speak.”

Sombolinggi said some progress had been made, with much of the forests where indigenous communities live in Indonesia mapped for the first time. And she said “dominant communities” would benefit, not only environmentally from more rights for indigenous people, but argued they could also learn important lessons from the way many of these groups lived.

“If we want to see the beautiful centuries ahead … we need to shift our paradigm of what constitutes wealth or prosperity because too many people see happiness only in terms of material goods and achievements and it is having a devastating impact. Many of us have lost our ability to connect with natural things and no longer seem able to live in harmony with the simple happiness around us.”

 on: Oct 19, 2017, 05:02 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
UK withdrawal bill 'rips the heart out of environmental law', say campaigners

New bill omits key ‘precautionary’ principle requiring developers and industry to prove actions will not harm wildlife or habitats as well as ‘polluter pays’ protections

Sandra Laville
19 October 2017 14.24 BST

The cornerstones of wildlife and habitat protection have been quietly left out of the withdrawal bill ripping the heart out of environmental law, campaigners say.

A key principle under EU law which provides a robust legal backstop against destruction of the environment – the precautionary principle - has been specifically ruled out of the bill as a means of legal challenge in British courts.

Based on the idea that the environment is unowned, the precautionary principle creates a bottom line forcing those who want to build or develop, for example, to prove in law what they are doing will not damage the environment.

Other key elements of EU legal protection, the polluter pays, and the principle that preventative action should be taken to avert environmental damage, have also been ruled out in the bill as a means to protect the natural world from damage by policymakers, development or industry after Brexit.

The withdrawal bill began to be debated in committee this week by MPs. Ministers are facing intense lobbying by Greener UK, an umbrella group of several leading environmental NGOs and backbench MPs, to ensure that the UK does not throw out these key protections.

Richard Benwell, head of government affairs at WWT, said: “Take out principles like precaution and polluter pays and you rip out the heart of environmental law.

“For decades they have helped guide good decisions – and strike down bad decisions – from planning to food safety to water quality and chemicals licensing.

“The principles must be available not just to interpret old law, but also to inform future decisions. Crucially we must be able to challenge Government in court if environmental principles are ignored. At the moment that’s explicity ruled out – a clear departure from the commitment to legal continuity on Brexit day.”

The precautionary principle and polluter pays principle are contained in Article 191 (2) of the Lisbon treaty which states policy on the environment should be “based on the precautionary principle and on the principles that preventive action should be taken, that environmental damage should as a priority be rectified at source and that the polluter should pay.”

But Schedule 1 of the withdrawal bill rules out these EU principles as a basis for challenge in British law. It states there is no right of action in domestic law on or after exit day based on a failure to comply with any of the general principles of EU law, and that no court or tribunal or other public body may, on or after exit day, quash any conduct or decide it is unlawful because it is incompatible with any of the general principles of EU law.

Tom Burke, chair of the global climate change think tank E3G, said: “It would not be an exaggeration to say that Brexit will have more immediate impact on our ability to manage the growing stresses on the environment than any other single political development of the past 50 years.

“There is no formal place in British policy practise for the writing into legislation of principles such as the polluter pays or the precautionary principle. This weakens the guidance to policy makers and judges as to the tests that should be applied in policy formation or implementation.”

Amendments put forward by Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, Kerry McCarthy Labour MP and Mary Creagh the Labour chair of the environmental audit committee, aim to fill the vacuum left by the bill in its current form. Amendment NC28 puts forward a new clause to ensure that public authorities must have regard to environmental principles currently enshrined in EU law.

Lawyers from the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) when asked by the Guardian about the absence of the precautionary principle as a means of challenge, made no comment on whether the amendments might be accepted as the bill goes through committee.

Benwell said ministers in Defra did appear to be looking for answers. But he said: “To give the public confidence that the spirit of our environmental law will be upheld, we are looking for strong solutions from Government to preserve and improve the application of the principles in UK laws in the early stages of the EU withdrawal bill.”

A Defra spokesperson said: “Our ambition is to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it.

“The decision to leave the European Union creates new opportunities for a green Brexit and to enhance our environmental standards. We now have the chance to deliver higher standards of animal welfare and reform how we manage our land, rivers and seas.”

 on: Oct 19, 2017, 04:59 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
See it, say it: Climate change

By Editorial Board
October 19 2017
WA Post

“NOTHING MORE than ash and bones.” That grim description of how some victims were found underscores the horror of the wildfires that swept through and devastated Northern California. At least 38 people were killed, including a 14-year-old boy found dead in the driveway of the home he was trying to flee, a 28-year-woman confined to a wheelchair and a couple who recently had celebrated their 75th anniversary. In addition to the lives lost, approximately 5,700 homes and businesses were destroyed, including entire neighborhoods turned into smoldering ruins.

Some 220,000 acres, including prized vineyards, have been scorched, and the danger is not over, as some fires are still burning and officials fear the return of winds could spread more catastrophe. Fire season is part of life in California, something that residents know and prepare for after the hot, dry summer months. But the events that began last Sunday have been unprecedented, and so the question that must be confronted is what caused the deadliest week of wildfires in the state’s history.

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) pointed the finger at climate change. “With a warming climate, dry weather and reducing moisture, these kinds of catastrophes have happened and will continue to happen and we have to be ready to mitigate, and it’s going to cost a lot of money,” he said last week.

No single fire can be specifically linked to climate change, and certainly other factors, such as increased development or logging and grazing activities, are involved. But scientists say there is a clear connection between global warming and the increase in recent years in the severity and frequency of wildfires in the West. “Climate change is kind of turning up the dial on everything,” expert LeRoy Westerling told CBS News. “Dry periods become more extreme. Wet periods become more extreme.”

While California prepares for what promises to be an arduous rebuilding, Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and other places hit by this year’s unprecedented back-to-back-to-back hurricanes are still mopping up and, in Puerto Rico’s case, just beginning to rebuild. So it would seem to be a natural time to talk about the possible role climate change played in these disasters and about measures the nation should be taking to slow global warming. Instead, we have an administration that refuses even to consider the possibility of a connection, much less talk about solutions. Worse, it is taking steps in the wrong direction: pulling out of the Paris climate accord, reversing rules on power plant emissions, staffing key agencies with climate-change deniers. Sadly, that will increase the likelihood and frequency of tragedies such as the fires in California’s wine country.


California Wildfires: One of 'Greatest Tragedies' State Has Ever Faced


With aid from easing winds, the 11,000 firefighters beating back the Northern California wildfires are making "good progress," as the number of major blazes dropped to 15, the state's fire agency Cal Fire announced Sunday.

But as Cal Fire noted‚ "Sadly, the death toll has risen to 40 people."

An estimated 217,566 acres have burned and 5,700 structures have been destroyed. Nearly 75,000 people remain evacuated.

The wine country blazes are officially the deadliest in state history.

"This is truly one of the greatest, if not the greatest tragedy that California has ever faced," California Gov. Jerry Brown said Saturday. "The devastation is just unbelievable, it's a horror that no one could have imagined."

President Trump approved a federal disaster declaration last week after Gov. Brown's request for federal assistance.

The infernos continue to burn, but "we will continue to aggressively attack and keep (the fire) contained," Napa County Fire Chief Barry Biermann said during a Sunday press conference.

"We are making a tremendous progress out there," he noted.

"Things feel good in our gut as firefighters," said Bret Gouvea, deputy chief of Cal Fire, adding that authorities remain cautious.

The wine country fires started Sunday and rapidly spread throughout the week due to the area's low humidity and "Diablo winds," with gusts up to 70 miles per hour. Scientists have suggested climate change might play a role.

Cal Fire said Sunday winds across Northern California have been fairly light in morning and the earlier Red Flag Warnings for the area will be lifted at 8 a.m. Many evacuation orders have also been lifted.

Red Flag Warnings are the highest alert issued by the National Weather Service, in which conditions are ideal for wildland fire combustion and rapid spread.

However, Red Flag Warnings remain in effect in Southern California due to gusty winds throughout the day, low humidity and high fire danger.

California's fires have released enough air pollution to equal a year's worth of traffic, Sean Raffuse, an air-quality analyst at the Crocker Nuclear Laboratory at University of California in Davis, said. Raffuse estimates the fires have produced about 10,000 tons of fine particulate matter, about the same amount generated by the state's 35 million vehicles.

"We are reporting the worst air quality ever recorded for smoke in many parts of the Bay Area," Tom Flannigan, a spokesman for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, told the East Bay Times. "This is similar to what you see in Beijing, China in bad air days there.


Pruitt Wants to Make the EPA Less Accountable to the Public


When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) breaks the law by missing deadlines, allowing polluters to violate regulations that protect our health and environment, one way the public holds it accountable is by taking the agency to court. Scott Pruitt and his corporate polluter allies see this as a problem, so Monday, the administrator moved to curtail the agency's practice of settling lawsuits with outside groups, making it easier to skirt the law.

"Pruitt's doing nothing more than posturing about a nonexistent problem and political fiction," John Walke, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate and Clean Air program said in reaction. "His targeting of legal settlements, especially where EPA has no defense to breaking the law, will just allow violations to persist, along with harms to Americans."

Over the years, the EPA has settled with numerous entities that have sued—industry groups, states and environmental organizations—but Pruitt's objection seems to focus solely on those who want to protect the nation's air, water and land. This new pro-polluter directive will serve only to prolong violations, delay protections and waste government resources fighting lawsuits against which the EPA has no defense.

"The irony is that polluters don't even have to sue Pruitt to get what they want. They just pick up the phone and ask," Walke said. "Make no mistake, the unspoken Trump EPA agenda is to allow more corporations to ignore the law and prolong EPA breaking the law; both will lead to dirtier air, dirtier water, and sicker people."


Drinking Water for Millions in Rural America Contaminated With Suspected Carcinogen


Drinking water supplies for millions of Americans in farm country are contaminated with a suspected cancer-causing chemical from fertilizer, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group.

The contaminant is nitrate, which gets into drinking water sources when chemical fertilizer or manure runs off poorly protected farm fields. Nitrate contaminates drinking water for more than 15 million people in 49 states, but the highest levels are found in small towns surrounded by row-crop agriculture. Major farm states where the most people are at risk include California, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Kansas.

Nitrate can be fatal to babies who ingest too much of it, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) legal limit for it in drinking water was set 25 years ago to protect infants from so-called blue baby syndrome. But the new report, Trouble in Farm Country, details the previously undocumented adult cancer risk posed by drinking water polluted with nitrate at only half the EPA's legal limit.

Data in the report comes from EWG's Tap Water Database, compiled from test results of almost 50,000 local water utilities in all 50 states. The data show that relatively few U.S. water supplies had nitrate levels in 2015 above the EPA's legal limit of 10 parts per million, or ppm. But more than 1,600 systems serving small towns had levels above 5 ppm, which studies by the National Cancer Institute have found to increase the risk of colon, kidney, ovarian and bladder cancers.

"Farmers can take often simple steps to keep fertilizer and manure out of drinking water sources," said Craig Cox, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at EWG. "But far too few farmers are taking action and federal farm policy doesn't do enough to help them. The result is that rural Americans are burdened with the health risks and cleanup costs of unchecked farm pollution, when it makes more sense to keep nitrate and other contaminants from getting in the water in the first place."

The risk is acute in small towns like Pretty Prairie, Kansas, population 672, where for more than 20 years tap water has been contaminated with nitrate exceeding the EPA's legal limit. In 2014 and 2015 the level was twice the legal limit.

In Pretty Prairie, parents with infants under six months old, and nursing or pregnant women, can get free bottled water. But that does nothing to protect other residents from cancers that may not show up for years or decades. A new water treatment system to lower nitrate levels could cost $2.4 million—far more than $3,000 for every person in town.

Farmers are largely exempt from federal or state regulations that could stem water pollution. The Department of Agriculture pays billions of taxpayer dollars a year to farmers who adopt conservation practices to control runoff. But EWG's report shows that much of the money does not support the most effective practices in areas where drinking water is most at risk.

The upcoming federal farm bill, which Congress is beginning to consider, is a remarkable opportunity to help local communities secure clean and safe drinking water by keeping nitrate and other contaminants out of water in the first place.

"Under the new farm bill, Congress should insist on an iron-clad quid pro quo with farmers," said Cox. "Farmers and landowners who receive federal farm and crop insurance subsidies, courtesy of taxpayers, must agree to take simple steps to keep fertilizer and manure from getting into our water. Department of Agriculture conservation programs should be surgically targeted to areas where drinking water is most threatened."

 on: Oct 19, 2017, 04:51 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
For Native Americans, a river is more than a ‘person,’ it is also a sacred place

The Conversation
19 Oct 2017 at 08:56 ET   
By Rosalyn R. LaPier, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, The University of Montana.
Colorado River. AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File

The environmental group Deep Green Resistance recently filed a first-of-its-kind legal suit against the state of Colorado asking for personhood rights for the Colorado River.

If successful, it would mean lawsuits can brought on behalf of the river for any harm done to it, as if it were a person.

In the past, several environmental groups in India, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and New Zealand have successfully sought protection for rivers and landscapes based on this argument. As a Native American scholar of environment and religion, I seek to understand the relationship between people and the natural world.

Native Americans view nature through their belief systems. A river or water does not only sustain life – it is sacred.

Why is water sacred to Native Americans?

In the past year, the Lakota phrase “Mní wičhóni,” or “Water is life,” became a new national protest anthem.

It was chanted by 5,000 marchers at the Native Nations March in Washington, D.C. this spring, and during protests last year as the anthem of the struggle to stop the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline under the Missouri River in North Dakota.

There was a reason: For long years, the Lakota, the Blackfeet and the other Native American tribes understood how to live with nature. And it was based on the knowledge of how to live within the restrictions of the limited water supply of the “Great American desert” of North America.
Water as sacred place

Native Americans learned both through observation and experiment, arguably a process quite similar to what we might call science today. They also learned from their religious ideas, passed on from generation to generation in the form of stories.

I learned from my grandparents, both members of the Blackfeet tribe in Montana, about the sacredness of water. They shared that the Blackfeet believed in three separate realms of existence – the Earth, sky and water. The Blackfeet believed that humans, or “Niitsitapi,” and Earth beings, or “Ksahkomitapi,” lived in one realm; sky beings, or “Spomitapi,” lived in another realm; and underwater beings, or “Soyiitapi,” lived in yet another. The Blackfeet viewed all three worlds as sacred because within them lived the divine.

The water world, in particular, was held in special regard. The Blackfeet believed that in addition to the divine beings, about which they learned from their stories, there were divine animals. The divine beaver, who could talk to humans, taught the Blackfeet their most important religious ceremony. The Blackfeet needed this ceremony to reaffirm their relationships with the three separate realms of reality.

The Soyiitapi, divine water beings, also instructed the Blackfeet to protect their home, the water world. The Blackfeet could not kill or eat anything living in water; they also could not disturb or pollute water.

The Blackfeet viewed water as a distinct place – a sacred place. It was the home of divine beings and divine animals who taught the Blackfeet religious rituals and moral restrictions on human behavior. It can, in fact, be compared to Mount Sinai of the Old Testament, which was viewed as “holy ground” and where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.
Water as life

Native American tribes on the Great Plains knew something else about the relationship between themselves, the beaver and water. They learned through observation that beavers helped create an ecological oasis within a dry and arid landscape.

As Canadian anthropologist R. Grace Morgan hypothesized in her dissertation “Beaver Ecology/Beaver Mythology,” the Blackfeet sanctified the beaver because they understood the natural science and ecology of beaver behavior.

Morgan believed that the Blackfeet did not harm the beaver because beavers built dams on creeks and rivers. Such dams could produce enough of a diversion to create a pond of fresh clean water that allowed an oasis of plant life to grow and wildlife to flourish.

Beaver ponds provided the Blackfeet with water for daily life. The ponds also attracted animals, which meant the Blackfeet did not have to travel long distances to hunt. The Blackfeet did not need to travel for plants used for medicine or food, either.

Beavers were part of what ecologists call a trophic cascade, or a reciprocal relationship. Beaver ponds were a win-win for all concerned in “the Great American desert” that modern ecologists and conservationists are beginning to study only now.

For the Blackfeet, Lakota and other tribes of the Great Plains, water was “life.” They understood what it meant to live in a dry arid place, which they expressed through their religion and within their ecological knowledge.

Rights of rivers

Indigenous people from around the world share these beliefs about the sacredness of water.

The government of New Zealand recently recognized the ancestral connection of the Maori people to their water. This past spring, the government passed the “Te Awa Tupua Whanganui River Claims Settlement Bill,” which provides “personhood” status to the Whanganui River, one of the largest rivers on the North Island of New Zealand. This river has come to be recognized as having “all the rights, powers, duties, and liabilities of a legal person” – something the Maori believed all along.

The United States does not have such laws. This new lawsuit hopes to change that and give the Colorado River “personhood” status. Indigenous people would add, a river is more than a “person” – it is also a sacred place.

 on: Oct 19, 2017, 04:48 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
September 2017: Earth's 4th Warmest September on Record

By Dr. Jeff Masters

September 2017 was the planet's fourth warmest September since record keeping began in 1880, said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) and NASA this week. The only warmer Septembers came during 2015, 2016 and 2014. Minor differences can occur between the NASA and NOAA rankings because of their different techniques for analyzing data-sparse regions such as the Arctic.

Global ocean temperatures last month were the fourth warmest on record for any September, according to NOAA, and global land temperatures were the third warmest on record. Global satellite-measured temperatures for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were the warmest for any September in the 39-year record, according to the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH) and Remote Sensing Systems (RSS).

(Above) Departure of temperature from average for September 2017, the fourth warmest September for the globe since record keeping began in 1880. Record warmth was observed across parts of central and southern Africa, southern Asia and scattered across the western, northern, and southern Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean (off the southeastern coast of South America), the Norwegian Sea, Greenland Sea and Barents Sea, and across parts of the Indian Ocean. No land or ocean areas experienced record cold September temperatures. Photo credit: National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).

(Above) Departures from the 20th-century global average temperature for September, 1880-2017. The four warmest Septembers on record have all occurred in the last four years. Photo credit: NOAA / NCEI

Second-Warmest Year on Record Thus Far

Each of the first eight months of 2017 have ranked among the top four warmest such months on record, giving 2017 the second highest January–September temperature in the 138-year record: 0.78°C (1.57°F) above the 20th-century average. This is behind the record year of 2016 by 0.13°C (0.24°F). This near-record warmth in 2017 is especially remarkable given the lack of an El Niño event this year. Global temperatures tend to be warmer during El Niño years, when the ocean releases more heat to the atmosphere. Given the lack of an El Niño event in 2017, it is unlikely that we will surpass 2016 as the warmest year on record. However, 2017 is almost certain to be the planet's warmest year on record that lacks any influence from El Niño, and Earth's four warmest years of the last century-plus are likely to be 2016, 2017, 2015 and 2014.

Two Billion-Dollar Weather Disasters in September 2017

Two Category 5 Atlantic hurricanes caused billion-dollar weather disasters last month, according to the September 2017 Catastrophe Report from insurance broker Aon Benfield: Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. Through the end of September, Earth had 21 billion-dollar weather events for the year, which is a typical number for this point in the year. The year that ended with the most billion-dollar weather disasters in records going back to 1990 was 2013, with 41; that year had 33 billion-dollar disasters by the end of September. Last year, there were 28 billion-dollar weather disasters by the end of September; that year ended up with 31 such disasters. Here are this year's billion-dollar weather disasters through the end of September:

    Hurricane Harvey, U.S., 8/25 – 9/2, >$20 billion, 60 killed

    Hurricane Irma, Caribbean, Bahamas, SE U.S., 9/5 – 9/12, >$30 billion, 124 killed

    Hurricane Maria, Caribbean, 9/18 – 9/21, >$20 billion, 78 killed

    Flooding, China, 6/22 – 7/5, $7.5 billion, 141 killed

    Flooding, China, 7/13 – 7/17, $4.5 billion, 20 killed

    Typhoon Hato, Macau, Hong Kong, China, 8/23 – 8/24, $3.5 billion, 22 killed

    Flooding, Peru, 1/1 – 4/1, $3.1 billion, 120 killed

    Severe Weather, Rockies, Plains, U.S., 5/8 – 5/11, $2.6 billion, 0 killed

    Drought, China, 5/1 – 8/31, $2.5 billion, 0 killed

    Tropical Cyclone Debbie, Australia, 3/27 – 4/5, $2.4 billion, 14 killed

    Drought, Italy, 1/1 – 7/31, $2.3 billion, 0 killed

    Severe Weather, Plains, Southeast, Midwest U.S., 3/26 – 3/28, $2.3 billion, 0 killed

    Severe Weather, Midwest, Plains, Southeast U.S., 3/6 – 3/10, $2.1 billion, 0 killed

    Severe Weather, Midwest, Plains, Southeast MS Valley U.S., 4/28 – 5/01, $2.0 billion, 20 killed

    Drought, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, 1/1 – 3/31, $1.9 billion, hundreds killed

    Severe Weather, South U.S., 2/27 - 3/2, $1.9 billion, 4 killed

    Severe Weather, Midwest U.S., 6/11, $1.8 billion, 0 killed

    Severe Weather, South U.S., 1/18 - 1/23, $1.3 billion, 21 killed

    Tropical Storm Nanmadol, Japan, 7/4 – 7/6, $1.0 billion, 37 killed

    Severe Weather, Plains, Midwest, Northeast U.S., 6/27 – 6/30, $1.0 billion, 0 killed

    Winter Weather, Plains, Midwest, Southeast, Northeast U.S., 3/13 – 3/15, $1.0 billion, 11 killed

55 – 65 Percent Chance of La Niña by Winter

In its October 12 monthly advisory, NOAA's Climate Prediction Center (CPC) stated that neither El Niño nor La Niña conditions were present in the Eastern Pacific (ENSO-neutral conditions existed). Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region (in the equatorial Pacific) were about 0.5°C below average over the past week; SSTs of 0.5°C or more below average in this region are required to be classified as weak La Niña conditions, with the 3-month average SSTs holding at these levels for five consecutive months (with an accompanying La Niña-like atmospheric response). Enhanced east-to-west blowing trade winds are predicted for the west-central Pacific over the next two weeks and these stronger-than-average trade winds will help the progression towards La Niña. NOAA forecasters gave a 55 - 65 percent chance of a La Niña event by winter, similar to the 55 – 60 percent odds given in their previous month's forecast.

(Above) Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the benchmark Niño 3.4 region (in the equatorial Pacific) were oscillating around 0.5°C below average for the first half of October, near the 0.5°C below average threshold for weak La Niña conditions. Photo credit: Levi Cowan, tropicaltidbits.com.

Arctic Sea Ice Extent the Seventh Lowest on Record for September

Arctic sea ice extent during September 2017 was the seventh lowest in the 38-year satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). The Arctic was dominated by low pressure and clouds in the summer of 2017. The cyclonic (counterclockwise) winds associated with the stormy pattern also tend to spread out the sea ice. Together, this two influences brought slower ice loss than in the record-low extent years of 2012 and 2007. The Arctic reached its lowest extent for the year on Sept. 13, which was the eighth lowest extent on record. The five lowest Arctic sea ice extents were measured in September 2012, 2007, 2016, 2011 and 2015.

Antarctic Sea Ice Extent the Second Lowest on Record for September

Sea ice surrounding Antarctica had the second lowest extent on record in September 2017 and has been at record- to near-record lows since September 2016. A recent study by John Turner and colleagues links the recent Antarctic sea ice decline to a series of strong storms accompanied by long periods of warm winds from the north. These changing weather conditions are associated with large shifts in the Southern Annual Mode (SAM) index.

Notable Global Heat and Cold Marks Set for September 2017

    Hottest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: 50.3°C (122.5°F) at Mitribah, Kuwait, Sept. 3

    Coldest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: -37.0°C (-27.2°F) at Summit, Greenland, Sept. 3

    Hottest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: 42.8°C (109.0°F) at Birdsville, Australia, Sept. 27

    Coldest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: -78.3°C (-108.9°F) at Concordia, Antarctica, Sept. 2

Major Weather Stations That Set (Not Tied) New All-Time Heat or Cold Records in September 2017

So far in 2017, 168 major weather stations have set records for the all-time highest temperature ever measured and 17 have set records for the all-time lowest temperature ever measured. Here are the records for September 2017:

    San Francisco (California) max. 41.1°C, Sep. 1

    Salinas (California) max. 42.8°C, Sept. 2

    Palo Alto (California) max. 42.2°C, Sept. 2

    San Luis Obispo (California) max. 46.1°C, Sept. 2

    King City (California) max. 46.1°C, Sept. 2

    Santa Cruz (California) max. 43.3°C, Sept. 2

    Conceicao do Araguaia (Brazil) max. 41.5°C, Sept. 19

No All-Time National Heat Records Set or Tied in September 2017

No all-time national heat records were set or tied in September 2017. As of October 17, thirteen nations have set or tied all-time national heat records in 2017 and two have set or tied all-time cold records. National all-time monthly temperature records so far in 2017 have numbered 44 for maximum temperature and two for minimum temperature. Most nations do not maintain official databases of extreme temperature records, so the national temperature records reported here are in many cases not official. I use as my source for international weather records researcher Maximiliano Herrera, one of the world's top climatologists, who maintains a comprehensive list of extreme temperature records for every nation in the world on his website. If you reproduce this list of extremes, please cite Maximiliano Herrera as the primary source of the weather records.

All-Time National Heat Records Set or Tied in 2017:

    Macau: 102.2°F (39.0°C) at Ka Ho, Coloane Island, Aug. 22 (tie)

    Hong Kong: 102.2°F (39.0°C) at Wetland Park, Aug. 22

    San Marino: 104.5°F (40.3°C), at Serravalle, Aug. 3 and 9

    Vatican City: 105.3°F (40.7°C) at Roma Macao AWS, Aug. 2 (tie)

    United Arab Emirates: 125.2°F (51.8°C), at Mezaira, July 30

    Spain: 117.1°F (47.3°C), at Montoro AEMET, July 13

    Iran: 128.7°F (53.7°C), at Ahwaz, June 29

    Oman: 123.4°F (50.8°C), at Qurayyat on May 30 and at Joba on May 31 (tie)

    Pakistan: 128.3°F (53.5°C), at Turbat on May 28 (tie)

    Guinea: 113°F (45.0°C), at Koundara, March 29 (tie)

    Ghana: 110.8°F (43.8°C), at Navrongo, March 26

    Chile: 113°F (45.0°C), at Cauquenes, Jan. 26

    Cocos Islands (Australia): 91.0°F (32.8°C), at Cocos Island Airport, Feb. 23 (tie with April 8, 2015 and April 11, 1998)

All-Time National Cold Records Set in 2017:

    United Arab Emirates: 22.3°F (-5.4°C) at Jabel Jais, Feb. 3

    Qatar: 34.7°F (1.5°C) at Abu Samra, Feb. 5

National Monthly Maximum Temperature Records Tied or Beaten in 2017 (44):

    Jan: Comoros, Uganda, Singapore, Mexico

    Feb: Iceland

    Mar: Kenya, Indonesia, Spain, Chile, Cook Islands

    Apr: Ghana, Wallis and Futuna, Honduras, Samoa, Uganda, Pakistan, Cabo Verde, UAE

    May: Greece, Iran, Norway, Austria

    June: Mexico, Oman, Iraq, Turkey, Albania, Portugal, UAE

    July: Cyprus, Comoros, Mayotte, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Niger

    August: Iran, UAE, Trinidad and Tobago, U.S., French Guiana

    September: Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iceland

    October: Portugal

National Monthly Minimum Temperature Records Set in 2017 (2):

    Jan: St. Eustatius

    July: Greenland

Other Records Set in 2017:

    World record of highest minimum temperature for March: 35.6°C at Yelimane, Mali, March 31

    Asian record of highest temperature ever recorded in April: 50.0°C at Larkana, Pakistan, April 19

    World record of highest temperature ever recorded in May (tied): 53.5°C at Turbat, Pakistan, May 28

    Asian record of highest temperature ever recorded in June: 53.7°C at Ahwaz, Iran, June 29

    Northern Hemisphere record of lowest temperature ever recorded in July: -33.0°C at Summit, Greenland, July 4

Reposted with permission from our media associate Weather Underground.

 on: Oct 19, 2017, 04:43 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Many of Florida’s Sea Turtle Nests Were Destroyed by Hurricane Irma

OCT. 19, 2017   
NY Times

In addition to wiping out homes and businesses, Hurricane Irma swept away a large number of sea turtle nests as it tore across Florida last month.

The state is a center of sea turtle nesting, and this year was developing into a very encouraging year for the endangered leatherback turtles, the threatened loggerheads and green turtles, said Kate Mansfield, a marine scientist and sea turtle biologist at the University of Central Florida. The hurricane suddenly dashed those hopes.

An official statewide picture of the damage to sea turtles won’t be available until Nov. 30, because the nesting season runs through at least the end of this month, said Simona Ceriani, a research scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. But it’s clear that nests in many areas of the state were destroyed by Irma, she said.

The northwest Atlantic region is one of the world’s two largest loggerhead nesting areas, and 89 percent of those animals are hatched in Florida, Dr. Ceriani said, citing a 2015 assessment.

At the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, just south of Cape Canaveral, more than half of the green turtle nests laid this season and a quarter of the loggerheads were lost as the storm tore up beaches, said Dr. Mansfield, whose program monitors turtles in the refuge.

Endangered leatherbacks lay their eggs earlier in the season, so none of their nests were lost in the refuge.

Sea turtles, which take 25 to 30 years to reach reproductive age, lay their eggs in the open beach, under vegetation or at the base of a dune. The hurricane eroded key nesting beaches, washing away nests or flooding them with rainwater or seawater, Dr. Mansfield said.

Along two stretches of beach south of Cape Canaveral, more than 90 percent of incubating loggerhead nests were destroyed by the storm, representing about 25 percent of the season’s total.

Sea turtle eggs take 45 to 70 days to incubate in the sand and are more vulnerable early in development, she said.

Sea turtles may lay eggs several times a season. Loggerhead nesting tends to wrap up by August or September, while green turtle nesting may continue through part of the peak hurricane season, Dr. Mansfield said.

Loggerheads have laid only eight new nests at the refuge since the storm, while green turtles have laid 466.

Green turtles typically lay more nests in alternate years. Last year, Hurricane Matthew wiped out many nests, but it was a light laying season for the greens, so there were fewer nests to destroy, Dr. Mansfield said.

This year, with record numbers of green turtle nests on the northeastern coast of Florida — with 12,000 north of Cape Canaveral and more than 15,000 a bit farther south — huge numbers were lost, Dr. Ceriani said.

Hurricane Nate, which is bearing down on Florida’s Gulf Coast, is unlikely to have a huge impact, because the loggerheads that are more common in that area have already laid their nests for the season.

There may be some impact on remaining green turtle nests on the Atlantic coast if the storm hits hard on those beaches, “but I don’t expect it would be bad,” Dr. Ceriani said in a follow-up email.

Although the losses this year are significant, sea turtle populations will survive as long as the hits don’t keep coming, Dr. Mansfield said.

But with hurricanes expected to intensify and increase in frequency, Dr. Mansfield worries about the longer-term health of the populations.

“I’m just hoping with two hurricanes like this in a row that we don’t have another few,” she said, “because we need a break.”

 on: Oct 19, 2017, 04:39 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

North Atlantic Right Whale Population Dips Below 450 After 'Deadliest Year' Since Whaling Era


Fifteen North Atlantic right whales—one of the most endangered of all large whales—have already died this year in U.S. and Canadian waters, according to researchers.

"This makes it pretty much the deadliest year we've seen for North Atlantic right whales since the days of whaling," Tonya Wimmer, director of Canada's Marine Animal Response Society, told the Toronto Star.

The population of North Atlantic right whales previously stood at 458 but that was before this year's deaths, Scott Kraus, vice president and chief scientist at the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium, explained to the New York Times. Only five calves were born this year.

This means there are now fewer than 450 North Atlantic right whales left on the planet.

Unfortunately, new research shows that many of these whales died because of human-related activity.

According to recent study, Incident Report: North Atlantic Right Whale Mortality Event in the Gulf of St. Lawrence 2017, necropsies on seven of the whales showed that four had died of blunt force trauma from ship collisions and two died of entanglement. The cause of death for the seventh whale was inconclusive.

The population of North Atlantic right whales has declined from 482 in 2010 to 458 in 2015, and entanglement is a major threat to the slow-moving creatures. A study published last year found that from 2010 to 2015, 15 percent of right whale deaths were caused by vessel strikes, while 85 percent were caused by entanglements.

A whale trapped in tangled fishing gear such as ropes and nets can suffer and ultimately die from a grisly death, as it can lead to drowning, laceration, infection and starvation.

Conservation groups are demanding immediate action from the U.S. and Canadian governments to protect the at-risk marine animals and have recently sent legal notices to Canadian officials and the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

"Right whales risk spiraling toward extinction if we don't protect them from deadly fishing gear," said Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "This has been a tragic year for a species already teetering on the brink. U.S. and Canadian officials need to do everything they can to prevent gear entanglements and the slow, painful deaths they can cause."

Anna Frostic, senior wildlife attorney for The Humane Society, said that NMFS "is mandated to protect endangered marine mammals like the North Atlantic right whale."

"Unfortunately, NMFS is failing to perform its duties under federal law, causing devastating impacts to this critically endangered species," Frostic concluded.

 on: Oct 19, 2017, 04:37 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
These male jumping spiders evolved dance moves because the ladies ignore them

October 19, 2017
Sara Chodosh
Popular Science

You don’t often feel bad for spiders. But when a fuzzy, black-eyed jumping spider raises his green forearms into the air, wiggles his butt, and flashes his orange knees, only to have a lady spider literally turn around in the middle of his dance...what kind of monster doesn’t feel a pang of empathy? It doesn’t even matter that arachnids are unlikely to experience rejection and angst the way humans do—you feel for the little guy.

It’s somehow worse once you know that male jumping spiders evolved this ability specifically to woo mates. Or at least, that’s the going theory. A group of biologists at the University of Pittsburgh wanted to understand why Habronattus pyrrithrix performed these mating dances even when the female partner wasn’t looking in their direction. Why dance for a lady who’s not even paying attention?

This isn’t an unheard of problem in the animal world. Peahens—the female equivalent of peacocks—tend to look elsewhere while their potential mates are strutting around. It seems that part of the point of the peacock display is to capture the distracted peahen’s attention. And so too with jumping spiders. The biologists video-taped pairs of H. pyrrithrix as the males courted the females to figure out how this delicate little performance worked. They published their findings in the journal Behavioral Ecology, along with an oddly delightful video of the dance.

You can see in that recording that the lady spider seems pretty uninterested in what the male is doing. He waves his arms, he waggles his knees, and when he finally makes his move, he’s totally rejected. He doesn’t even seem that intent on staying in her field of view, though. It’s possible that this is actually intentional, since cannibalism is not uncommon in the jumping spider world, at least in captivity. If ‘eaten alive’ were a potential option before and after sex, you might also be hesitant to really commit to the mating ritual.

Then again, it may be that the male simply doesn't have to constantly move himself to be in her field of view. Jumping spiders have eyes on the sides of their head, so they can see movement in every direction, though their side-eye vision isn't especially sharp. His dance might be just the trick to get her attention. Once she turns to face him, he starts that little knee raise bit to up the ante, now that he knows she’s seen him.

As for her apparent disinterest, that’s a pretty standard reaction to this mating dance. About 70 percent of the time, female jumping spiders didn’t look at the males. The biologists aren’t totally sure why this was, though they have some theories. One is that the lady only needs a few quick glances to make her decision. Another is that she just literally can’t focus for that long, and so the guy keeps dancing to re-capture her attention. Or it could be that she’s keeping an eye out for predators that might be notice a bright green waving spider and eat both of them.

Or maybe—just maybe—it’s a test. By turning away, the female spider is forcing her partner to interpret her signals and react appropriately, so she could then differentiate between the guys who care to really court her and the dolts who just want to wave their butts around. Males who accurately interpret her body language might be better partners. Or, as the biologists put it in the paper, “that more attentive males may be more successful communicators and, in turn, more valuable mates.”

Spiders really are just like us.

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