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 41 
 on: Aug 23, 2016, 05:04 AM 
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CS Monitor

Five ways to make aquaculture more sustainable

Combining rice paddles and fish ponds, and using locally caught fish as feed, are just two of the ways that fish farming, or aquaculture, can be made more environmentally friendly.

By Laura Reynolds, Nourishing the Planet 8/23/2016

Aquaculture, or the rearing of fish in captivity, is the world’s fastest-growing protein-producing activity, with nearly 50 percent of all seafood being farmed rather than caught in wild fisheries.

This rapid growth has provoked questions of sustainability in the global aquaculture industry, including how to handle the massive amounts of salt water being imported inland for fish farms. While researchers warn of dangerous overfishing and decline in the world’s wild fish population, aquaculture stands as a potentially sustainable alternative, and recent innovations promise to enhance the efficiency, safety, and sustainability of aquaculture while improving the lives of its fish farmers.

Today, Nourishing the Planet examines five innovations that are improving the sustainability of aquaculture around the world.

1. Integrating rice-and-fish farming: In many parts of Asia, rice farming provides a major source of income. Rice paddies and fish have long coexisted incidentally, since many fish species find their way into flooded rice fields and actually prefer the fields for reproduction and habitation. But, recently farmers have intentionally imported fish into their rice fields. The advantages of integrated rice-fish farming include a more productive and nutrient-rich rice crop, because fish increase the availability of phosphorous and nitrogen in soils; a reduction in disease-carrying aquatic weeds and algae, which compete with rice for nutrients but are a favored food among fish; and an extra source of income for farmers who can find markets for their fish.

Rice-fish farming in action: In Bangladesh, where approximately 80 percent of its total cultivable land is devoted to rice farming, two researchers from Charles Darwin University in Australia studied the benefits of integrating fish into rice cultivation in 2010. They found that for aman, the most popularly raised rice variety in Bangladesh, the yield was 12 percent higher in integrated systems than in rice monocultures, and fertilizer and pesticide inputs were reduced. In addition, another researcher from Shimane University in Japan found that rice-fish farmers had 5–11 percent higher revenue than farmers of rice monocultures.

2. Combating salmon lice with wrasse fish: The spread of disease in aquaculture poses a serious threat not only to farmed fish, but also to wild fisheries. Although one such disease, salmon lice, occurs naturally in the wild, salmon lice has been intensified by aquaculture because of its high concentrations and varieties of species – in some areas of Norway, for example, wild salmon and sea trout had 3-5 times more lice than what is considered to be a “fatal dose.” Furthermore, the lice can be transmitted from fish to fish or across large distances via currents, making the disease very difficult to contain. If aquaculture contributes to the incidence of a potentially fatal disease in wild habitats, then it may contribute to the collapse of global wild fisheries. For these reasons, scientists from Stirling University in Scotland are studying the effect of wrasse, a family of fish that cleans other fish of parasites and has been shown to help control lice in farmed salmon. If wrasse can effectively control the incidence of salmon lice, fish farms can reduce their use of medicines and other inputs, and limit their environmental impact.

Using wrasse to reduce salmon lice in action:  In September 2011 Scotland’s two largest salmon-farming operations announced a joint study with Stirling University in Scotland to determine the best species of wrasse to combat salmon lice. The companies are each investing nearly $700,000 to develop and grow enough wrasse to deploy in Atlantic salmon farms throughout Scotland.

3. Recirculating aquaculture systems: A form of aquaculture that has gained popularity in the last few years is called recirculating aquaculture systems, or RAS. These systems recirculate the water used in the fish tank after flowing through a treatment tank, so they use up to 99 percent less water than other aquaculture systems. Because they are maintained in controlled environments, RAS can reduce the discharge of waste and the need for antibiotics or chemicals used to combat disease, as well as prevent fish and parasite escapes. RAS can also incorporate hydroponics, or the water-based cultivation of plants, because the plants thrive in the nutrient-rich water and actually help purify it for reuse. In addition, RAS are less damaging to the environment than many other aquaculture systems, such as open-ocean farms, because of their limited pollution and low demands for space.

RAS in action: Clifford Fedler, a professor of civil engineering at Texas Tech University, has taken the idea of RAS and created a system that can also treat wastewater and create biomass to be used as renewable fuel, potentially helping rural and underserved communities become largely self-sufficient. The systems use the wastewater to grow plants such as water hyacinth, which produces one of the highest biomass yields and is the fastest-growing plant in a hydroponic system. In 2004, the system was implemented in a Peruvian village, and it now turns human and animal wastewater into reusable fuel, providing electricity for cooking and lighting.

4. Using locally caught fish as feed: The question of how to feed fish raised in aquaculture operations is controversial. Many researchers, such as Rosamund Naylor and Marshall Burke from Stanford University, now estimate large-scale, industrial aquaculture to be a “net drain” on the world’s fish supply, meaning that farms raising larger fish such as tuna actually consume more fish in the form of ground-up feed than they produce for human consumption. In addition, farmers are increasingly cutting costs by feeding fishmeal to traditionally herbivorous fish. Aquaculture that relies on local supplies of fish to feed their fish stock could reduce the inputs of industrial operations.

Locally caught fish feed in action: Many tuna farms and “ranches” in Baja California rely predominantly on seasonal, locally caught Pacific sardine as feed. This alternative feeding method reduces many of the dangers of industrial aquaculture because the feed comes from natural populations, reducing the risk of introducing exotic species that could cause negative interactions with wild fish. In addition, the feed does not have to be processed and pelletized for transport, which greatly reduces the carbon emissions of these operations, according to Peter Tyedmers of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.

5. Involving women in aquaculture: Women in developing countries can have a large role in small-scale, sustainable aquaculture systems because they are often charged with managing their family’s land while the men seek work in cities. Commercial aquaculture often replaces paddy fields or other agricultural activities in which women are traditionally involved. Because there is often bias against employing women in these larger aquaculture operations, the involvement of women in home-based aquaculture systems, such as backyard ponds, would provide them with a reliable source of income. These operations would also provide nutritional, monetary, and social benefits for the family and community.

Women in aquaculture in action: In a southern state of India, researchers from the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation are training 30 women to run home-based aquaculture operations, raising ornamental fish for sale. Ornamental fish were chosen as the crop because they require limited space, technical skill, and time, and can be sold at markets for around $9-to-$14 per household, per month. The program linked women with credit, technology, infrastructure, training, job security, and trade, providing a powerful tool to improve the lives of women in poor, rural areas.

 42 
 on: Aug 23, 2016, 05:01 AM 
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CS Monitor

SunFunder uses crowdsourcing to finance solar projects in Africa, India

More than a billion people lack access to electricity. Solar power could be a big part of the answer, says SunFunder founder Ryan Levinson.

By Gregory M. Lamb, Staff writer 8/23/2016

The cost of solar power has come down dramatically in recent years. And millions of people in the developing world desperately need a cheap, clean source of energy. But solar is only coming to them slowly.

What's holding things up?

While there are some tough distribution hurdles to leap to get solar power to remote villages, the bigger challenge is how to finance it. Customers usually can pay very little up front. They need ways to "pay as you go," buying electricity as they use it. But solar power companies need capital up front to finance their projects.

That's where SunFunder steps in. It's a solar-financing company that partners with solar businesses in places like Africa and India.

And where does SunFunder get its money? Right now it's taking advantage of crowdsourcing. Some 600 individuals from 33 countries have provided loans averaging about $100 each. As it grows, SunFunder is also reaching out to larger private investors, foundations, and even government entities.

"We see a really big opportunity there," says Ryan Levinson, who founded SunFunder in July 2012. While crowdfunding has been a great launching pad, the need for large amounts of capital is evident. "We believe it's going to be a profitable industry," says Mr. Levinson, who previously had served as a vice president for solar projects at Wells Fargo. Solar could "provide energy to over a billion people" in the developing world who lack it, he says.

Kerosene and diesel are the current fuels of choice in the developing world. But they are dirty sources of energy, create poor indoor air quality, contribute to climate change, and are very costly. Poor people "spend a huge amount of their income for energy," Levinson says. "That's what energy poverty is."

To attack the problem Sunfunder makes short-term loans to solar businesses of one to three years. The loan sizes have ranged from $4,000 to $25,000. So far 10 projects have been funded on the SunFunder website, totaling $140,000. The first of these modest-sized loans, which big banks often ignore as not worth their time, already has been 100 percent repaid.

While solar has an important role to play in cooking, lighting, and heating, its biggest appeal in developing countries is as a means of charging cell phones.

"Cell phone charging is the No. 1 reason people want solar," Levinson says. "We hear that over and over again. It took me a few times hearing it before I started believing it."

Some 600 million people in the world have cell phones but lack access to any kind of convenient or affordable way to charge them. They may have to walk for hours to a charging station, which might consist of a car battery being charged by a diesel engine.

Cell phones are opening up new ways for poor people to pay for things, including solar power. "Now people are able to charge their cell phones with solar energy – and also pay for their solar energy by cell phone," Levinson says. In that way, solar power is "not just about access to energy but access to [cell phone] connectivity, to information."

The repayment rate to SunFunder and its investors has been 100 percent, he says. "We're very careful" in choosing solar companies to work with, Levinson says. "They have to have a strong track record and know what they're doing."

The growing San Francisco-based company has a five-person team, including cofounder Audrey Desiderato, who is stationed in Tanzania.

After weighing the advantages and disadvantages of organizing as a nonprofit entity, Levinson decided SunFunder should be a for-profit company to maximize its ability to grow.

"I think there is still a big role for nonprofits" in solar power, he quickly adds, especially in funding "more risky" experimental or pilot projects, such as solar-powered cell phone towers.

"There's a lot of experimentation, a lot of business models being tested," he says.

 43 
 on: Aug 23, 2016, 04:55 AM 
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CS Monitor

Mars isolation studies: What are we learning?

The NASA-funded Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation is the latest in a series of missions designed to prepare astronauts for the harsh realities of prolonged space travel.

By Joseph Dussault, Staff August 22, 2016

After a year of isolation, six scientists will emerge on Sunday from a dome sitting on the largest volcano on Earth.

The crew of the NASA-funded Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) has lived in the two-story dome for a year, navigating communication issues and personal conflicts in almost total isolation. Theirs was the longest Mars simulation mission on Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports.

The mission is just one of many which aim to prepare astronauts for the harsh realities – both physical and psychological – of prolonged space travel.

Mauna Loa is a near-perfect analog for the barren Martian landscape. The volcano’s high elevation prevents plant growth, and like Mars, the surface is covered in volcanic basalt rock. The fourth HI-SEAS team has survived this desolate environment for months, eating only freeze-dried astronaut food.

Crew members are required to wear spacesuits whenever they leave the dome until the mission ends on August 28. In an attempt to replicate communication delays between Earth and Mars, mission control stalls all outside messages by 20 minutes. HI-SEAS simulations are operated by the University of Hawaii.

Small-group isolation scenarios tend to be a breeding ground for personal conflict. But the most recent HI-SEAS crew seems to have averted the issue.

"I think we've done remarkably well, compared to a lot of research I did for my Master's about what can happen in environments like this," crew architect Tristan Bassingthwaighte, a doctor of architecture candidate at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa told The Christian Science Monitor in a recorded video interview in March. "We don't have nearly as many of the reclusive tendencies that I thought would happen."

Psychological research in prisons strongly suggests that solitary confinement can have a negative impact on decision-making and emotional health. The same is likely true in deep space: studies of crew members on the International Space Station have found that on prolonged space journeys isolation may have negative effects on astronaut performance.

“They get to miss the feeling of wind on their faces,” Gloria Leon, a University of Minnesota psychologist who advises NASA on astronaut selection, tells the Monitor in a phone interview. “They miss the smells of nature, or the smell of food cooking. On a Mars voyage, Earth will be out of view. It will be the equivalent of twilight, looking out of the porthole. So there will be boredom – monotony, really – in terms of the environment.”

In an effort to mitigate these effects, NASA has committed to preparing astronauts for the challenge through many programs beyond HI-SEAS in Hawaii. There's the agency’s Human Exploration Research Analog, or HERA, located at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Texas, which also simulates life in a long-term space habitat. As it turns out, the science fiction film “The Martian,” about NASA astronaut Mark Watney, who is stranded on Mars after accidentally getting left behind by his crew, pretty much got it right.

On NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations 21, or NEEMO, researchers conduct geological studies and test communication technology in simulated antigravity. These tests require astronauts to dive to space-like conditions in the ocean off the Florida coast.

But analog missions can’t simulate every aspect of prolonged spaceflight. Microgravity, for example, may cause a number of physiological effects over months and years.

“I don’t think any analog sufficiently prepares the astronauts,” Dr. Leon says. “Each analog has different components that are equivalent in some way to a Mars mission, and the one consistent factor is confinement. But what you don’t get in these analogs is the kind of danger that a space voyage entails. If there’s a real serious emergency in an analog, a person can leave.”

That said, analog missions still yield new and valuable insights. Recent studies have examined how gender differences, both physical and socially constructed, play out in isolated space crews. About 50 percent of the last accepted class of astronauts, Leon notes, were women. Other studies consider factors like sleep deprivation, as NASA seeks to make more informed decisions about crew selection and maintenance.

“Research moves forward as technologies move forward,” Leon says. “It's possible now, through brain imaging, to study changes in brain structure over extended periods of time. And the more data you have, the better you can understand how people can function together over long periods of time.”

 44 
 on: Aug 23, 2016, 04:54 AM 
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CS Monitor

NASA opens research to public: Why that’s a big deal

NASA PubSpace provides free online access to hundreds of papers on NASA-funded research projects. The new open-access policy carries important implications for both the agency and for academic research as a whole.

By Weston Williams, Staff August 22, 2016

It has been a good week for science and space enthusiasts.

NASA announced last Tuesday that they would be releasing hundreds of peer-reviewed, scholarly articles on NASA-funded research projects online. The articles are entirely free to access for any member of the public.

The new service is a big deal for the space agency, which has been gathering scientific information on a huge variety of topics since it was established in 1958.

The move comes amid a greater push for scientists to make their research free to the public for others to learn from and to build upon. One computer programmer and research associate at the Britain's University of Bristol went as far as to call the practice of sealing scientific research behind a journal's paywall "immoral."

"If you are a scientist, your job is to bring new knowledge into the world. And if you bring new knowledge into the world, it's immoral to hide it," he wrote in a 2013 editorial published in The Guardian.

NASA's treasure trove of scientific articles can be accessed through NASA PubSpace, where anyone can search through a library of research papers already numbering in the hundreds. The papers now available to the public range from the space-related studies of how ancient Martian tsunamis may have shaped the Red Planet to closer-to-home examinations of how climate change affects the movement of Earth's magnetic poles.

And that's just the beginning.

According to NASA's website, all articles in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and will now be required to be publicly accessible via PubSpace. There will be some exceptions for articles that concern national security and patents, but minus those exceptions, every future academic paper on research funded by NASA will be available to the public for free.

NASA's new policy is because of a 2013 request from the Obama administration to increase public access to the results of all federally funded research, according to a NASA press release. The request applied to all science-funding agencies that are backed by money from the US government.

This is only the latest in several NASA initiatives to increase public access to the organization. NASA's website has an "Open Government" section that outlines various initiatives to make the agency more available to the public through programs that promote machine-readability of NASA documents, open-source software development, and financial data transparency.

PubSpace has the potential to be a game-changer beyond NASA, however.

Traditionally, academic journal articles require subscriptions to access, which can cost potential viewers a lot. By allowing free, convenient online access, this research will be accessible to all sorts of people and institutions who couldn't afford it. Also, the consolidation of articles from multiple journals into one site will make it a good deal more convenient for those who wish to access the information.

While the free access to this kind of information will thrill science enthusiasts, PubSpace could also have an important impact on further scientific inquiry.

“Making our research data easier to access will greatly magnify the impact of our research,” said NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan in the press release. “As scientists and engineers, we work by building upon a foundation laid by others.”

In other words, by releasing the data, scientists outside NASA will have access to all sorts of knowledge upon which to base their own work. In turn, their discoveries might provide new discoveries that others, including private companies, research organizations, and even NASA itself, could build on.

The new system is part of a greater trend of openness and accessibility in the scientific community. As the internet has grown in usage and sophistication over the past few decades, so has the demand for free, unencumbered access to information that was once the purview of only a select few members of government organizations or academics.

NASA is not the only scientific body to be affected by this trend. Earlier this month, the Smithsonian points out, the American Chemical Society announced that it is working on a similar public portal to research. Several prominent peer-reviewed journals, including Science and Nature, have launched separate open-access publications in the past few years. Still, legacy journals do not appear ready to give up paywalls entirely, however, and are willing to take legal action against those who breach that boundary. A researcher in Russia is currently facing a lawsuit for releasing 48 million pirated journal articles online in an attempt to make them freely accessible to the public.

While the legal and ethical ramifications of Robin Hood-style scientific piracy are contentious, PubSpace, as a legal way to get to free scientific research, is an important step toward openness and accessibility in the scientific community.

“At NASA, we are celebrating this opportunity to extend access to our extensive portfolio of scientific and technical publications,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman in the press release. “Through open access and innovation we invite the global community to join us in exploring Earth, air and space.”

While NASA's selection of articles is already available for browsing, the agency says that PubSpace will not be fully functional until sometime this fall.

 45 
 on: Aug 23, 2016, 04:52 AM 
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CS Monitor

What can Mother Nature teach us about managing financial systems?

Like ecosystems, financial markets are complex evolving systems from which unexpected bubbles, crashes, and other surprising behaviors can emerge. Building resilient financial systems may require policymakers to take cues from biology.

By Simon Levin, Princeton University

During a half-hour interval on May 6, 2010, stock prices for some of the largest companies in the world dropped precipitously, some to just pennies a share. Then, just as suddenly and inexplicably, shares recovered to their pre-crash prices.

This unprecedented event, burned into the memories of investors and regulators alike, is now known as the Flash Crash. Since that day, financial markets have seen flash crashes in US Treasury securities, foreign currencies, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Other puzzling, system-wide glitches are becoming more frequent as well.

Without a doubt, our financial systems are complex and often unpredictable, and when they swing out of control they remind us how much we still have to learn about how they work and how inadequate our traditional methods of controlling them are.

In all their complexity, though, financial markets don’t hold a candle to the natural world, with its 8 million-plus species – those we know of, not including the millions that have come and gone – interacting and evolving in the world’s forests and oceans and in the microbiomes of our guts.

In the century and a half since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, we still are stymied by the complexity of the biosphere; and, just as with our financial systems, our efforts to intervene have often led to confounding results.

Smokey the Bear offers an example. For seven-plus decades, this popular icon has reminded us of the importance of preventing wildfires. But modern ecological practice recognizes that suppression of all forest fires today simply sets up forests for larger and more destructive catastrophes tomorrow. In all likelihood, financial systems are no different; small catastrophes are probably essential in maintaining their ongoing health.

But how? How might biology inform our efforts to manage markets? How can we get beyond a metaphorical understanding of the ways markets and ecosystems are alike to explore, in practical terms, what our scientific theory offers our financial regulatory apparatus?

Earlier this year, during a Santa Fe Institute-sponsored meeting at the Keck Center of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., we pulled together experts from economists to ecologists to evolutionary biologists. We called the meeting “New Approaches to Financial Regulation.” Our intent was to find common theoretical grounds with which to inform future financial regulatory approaches.
The complex systems perspective

The biosphere and the “financiosphere” are both dazzling in their complexity, with striking similarities. Both are dynamic systems in which the selfish actions of countless individuals – whether they be cells or investors – lead to unpredictable consequences at the system level. In turn, these collective actions and consequences feed back to influence individual actions in endless cycles of adaptation and evolution.

This adaptive cycle is the essence of a complex system. It’s also what makes complex systems difficult to understand, hard to predict, and tricky to manage.

Not surprisingly, in both the biosphere and financial markets, the resulting system-level emergent phenomena include unexpected crises and collapses, from population crashes to stock devaluations, from the desertification of lush landscapes to market failures, from the disappearance of species to the demise of industries.

But biological systems also exhibit remarkable resilience. By studying how evolution has made them more robust, might we develop new and wiser approaches to financial regulation? We think so.
Exploration and exploitation

Life began on this planet nearly 4 billion years ago, and despite frequent insults and challenges, we are still here (at least for the moment). We know that life’s remarkable robustness, in large part, is dependent on variation; systems that suppress or lose their diversity are prone to collapse.

Through continuous innovation, via mutation and sexual recombination, for example, coupled with a seemingly simple filter called natural selection, which leads to the fittest innovations surviving to reproduce, life responds and adapts to changing environments and to itself. Charles Darwin, impressed by the “tangled bank” that emerged from these evolutionary dynamics, revolutionized our understanding of the world about us, and his insights are still with us.

But natural selection’s apparent simplicity turns out to be deceptively complicated. Even the mechanisms of evolution, including those that generate innovation in the form of new variants, are subject to constant modification. Mutation rates (the rapidity at which genetic variants occur) are subject to selection pressures (influences that suppress a population’s reproductive success). Even sexual reproduction itself has evolved to provide a greater variety of genetic material on which natural selection can act.

This interplay between exploration, by which new solutions are tested, and exploitation, by which the best solutions are multiplied and spread, is characteristic not only of evolution via natural selection, but also of the way people, companies, and other institutions must allocate their time and effort to survive and thrive in an economy – which is to say that business and markets are shaped by many of the same evolutionary processes that shape the natural world.

Evolving for the unknown

Importantly, evolution is not about optimization in the abstract; it is about optimization relative to other genetic variants within and across species. While we are evolving, so too are our enemies (like the influenza virus) and our friends (including the microbiomes in our guts). To a large extent, evolution is about preparing for the unknown, because the scope of possible changes in our environments is so immense that we cannot hope to predict their form or timing.

We can predict, however, that during our lives, we will be assaulted by a variety of pathogens. Thus, vertebrates have evolved a contingency plan in the form of immune systems and barriers to invasion, such as skin and cell walls. These systems combine early warning indicators and generalized first lines of defense that buy time while we populate our immune repertoire with more specialized antibodies tuned to the specific threats. This is akin to circuit breakers in financial securities markets, which shut down trading when volatility is too high.

At the same time, mammals have evolved regulatory systems that help maintain the stability of our systems. Human heart rate and breathing, for example, are regulated by physiological processes that correct deviations from the norm in the time scales required for survival – kicking them into overdrive when we’re being chased by a tiger, for example.

But when our physiological feedback loops are too weak or too slow, or too strong, pathologies arise.

Regulatory feedbacks that are “just right” help maintain a healthy human.

Similarly, when the time scale of financial innovation outstrips that of regulation – as in the case of high-frequency trading – there are likely to be unintended consequences. But regulatory responses that are too strong or poorly timed – like emergency price controls, short sales restrictions, bank holidays, and extreme capital constraints – can lead to greater panic and uncertainty among investors and consumers, ultimately causing even less desirable outcomes such as housing market crashes, rapid inflation, and recessions.

Regulatory feedbacks that are “just right” help maintain a healthy economy.

Self-organized robustness

These complex interrelationships underscore the importance of maintaining diversity in financial markets, in part by allowing enough exploration (that is, financial innovation) to produce the requisite diversity for a healthy system. But what is the right amount?

As mentioned earlier, evolution has dealt with the diversity problem in part by regulating evolutionary processes themselves: the rate at which mutations occur, and sexual recombination, which helps ensure a reassortment of the genes in a population and the production of new variants.

We tend to think of evolutionary change primarily in terms of natural selection based on the reproductive success of individuals with helpful traits. But all complex systems, including biological systems and business ecosystems, also exhibit self-organized patterns at scales larger than at the level of individuals. Such self-organization also “selects” by producing, from the interactions of individuals, emergent features that themselves either persist or wane. The self-organized systems that persist, and that we observe, tend to have properties that make them more robust.

Such self-organization does not always lead to robust systems, however; self-organized phenomena may also contain the seeds of system collapse, as we saw in the financial crisis of 2008–2009, when financial innovation and unprecedented connectedness, among other factors, combined to bring the system to the brink of failure.

Still, some features of biological systems might be helpful in designing self-organized financial systems for robustness.

Redundancy provides insurance against loss. The American chestnut largely disappeared from the forests of the Northeastern United States, but other species filled its niche. In 2004, though, when Chiron, one of only two companies providing flu vaccines in the US, announced that its plants in Liverpool were contaminated, our house of cards was at real risk of collapse. We were too dependent on too few suppliers.

Modularity (the inverse of connectedness) isolates related elements, limiting systemic risk by reducing the potential for a local problem to spread globally. Quarantines and barriers restrict movement of infected individuals to help control the spread of a contagion. Such methods are used not only for human diseases, but for livestock, as in the case of foot and mouth disease. Likewise, modularity in financial systems can help keep problems that emerge in one market or industry from spreading to others and pulling the whole system down.

In biology, breakdowns in size regulation, such as with gigantism, are considered unhealthy for biological organisms. Likewise, the unchecked growth of financial institutions can lead to banks that are “too big to fail,” which, we now understand clearly, can threaten global financial stability.

Cues from evolution

Any view of financial systems must recognize that they are ecosystems, linking agents, stocks, and flows. Just as an ecosystem ecologist is focused on the cycling of crucial elements like carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus, so too might a “financial ecologist” focus on the sustainable cycling of crucial elements like capital, labor, and financial innovation.

As we refine and define the levers by which we attempt to manage tomorrow’s economies, we must keep in mind that regulations that focus on specific parts of systems often miss the big picture. In the build-up to the 2008 crisis, for example, bank regulators naturally focused on the banking industry, neglecting the impact of the rapidly emerging shadow-banking system and its impact on financial stability.

Management of ecological systems in the past has often opted for narrowly derived or simplistic interventions, but the ensuing failures have led to calls for ecosystem approaches – in the management of fisheries and forests, for example. Similarly, our failures to predict and control financial ecologies should remind us that, if anything, the interconnectedness of global financial systems is ever greater, and a holistic approach is essential if we are to succeed.

As adaptive complex systems, natural and financial systems share deep likenesses. We should take cues from billions of years of evolution. Nature, and biology, offer solutions to a number of challenges of financial regulation, not to mention the regulation and control of many other systems crucial to well-functioning societies.

Simon A. Levin is the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, and author of Fragile Dominion: Complexity and the Commons. His research focuses on how ecological, behavioral, and evolutionary mechanisms that operate primarily at the organism level lead to macroscopic patterns and processes at the ecosystem and biosphere levels. More recently he has turned his attention to the parallels between ecological and economic systems, in particular the evolution and development of their structure and organization and what makes them vulnerable to collapse.

Andrew W. Lo is the Charles E. and Susan T. Harris Professor of finance at the MIT Sloan School of Management, director of MIT's Laboratory for Financial Engineering, and coauthor of The Econometrics of Financial Markets and Hedge Funds: An Analytic Perspective, among others. His research interests include financial asset pricing models; financial engineering and risk management; trading technology and market microstructure; and, more recently, evolutionary and neurobiological models of individual risk preferences and financial markets.

 46 
 on: Aug 23, 2016, 04:48 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
August 23, 2016

New compound stops scars before they form

by Chuck Bednar
Red Orbit

A team of Australian researchers are working on a new treatment they claim will be able to prevent largely untreatable, potentially disfiguring scars from forming in the first place, according to a new study.

Dr. Swaminathan Iyer, a biochemist with the University of Western Australia, and his colleagues explained that they are investigating compounds that could inhibit lysyl oxidase (LOX), which is an enzyme that causes the collagen involved in wound healing to crosslink.

This, in turn, serves as the basis for the biochemical processes which can lead to the formation of severe scars in some patients – scars that the authors said are often associated with the permanent loss of function, a change in skin color and texture, and even regular discomfort and itchiness.

“The treatment we're developing is focused on the major needs of patients with burns, keloids and Dupuytren contracture, a hand deformity,” Dr. Iyer, whose team presented their research at the 252nd American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition this weekend, said in a statement. “These patients have extensive scarring, which can impair their movements. There are no current treatments available for them, and we want to change this.”

Human trials could begin within the next few years

The researchers, citing statistics from the American Burn Association, said that tens of thousands of people in the US are hospitalized for burns each year. Likewise, nearly 250,000 Americans are treated each year for keloids, and an estimated 7% of have Dupuytren contracture, a condition in which connective tissue beneath the palm slowly begins to contract and become tougher.

Currently, there are no ways to treat scarring associated with any of these conditions. However, Dr. Iyer and researchers at the Fiona Wood Foundation and the burn unit at Royal Perth Hospital set out to change that by blocking LOX and preventing the processes that lead to scar formation.

“During the scarring process, the normal architecture is never restored, leaving the new tissue functionally compromised. So our goal is to stop the scar from the beginning by inhibiting LOX,” the biochemist explained. “We have been fortunate to work in collaboration with the pharmaceutical company Pharmaxis, which is designing novel and highly selective small molecules that will allow the establishment of normal tissue architecture after wound repair.”

To test the effectiveness of their compound, they created a “scar-in-a-jar” model by culturing fibroblasts from human scar tissue in a petri dish. The cells overproduced and secreted collagen just as they would with a real-world injury, but when the researchers added LOX inhibitors to the cultures, they found changes that could potentially prevent the formation of such scar tissue.

“The preliminary data strongly suggest that lysyl oxidase inhibition alters the collagen architecture and restores it to the normal architecture found in the skin,” said Dr. Iyer. “Once the in-vitro validation has been done, the efficacy of these compounds will be tested in pig and mouse models. Depending on the success of the animal studies and optimal drug candidate efficacy, human trials could be undertaken in a few years.”

 47 
 on: Aug 23, 2016, 04:46 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
August 23, 2016

Young people are literally dying to lose weight

by John Hopton
Red Orbit

Body-conscious 18-30 year-olds are increasingly turning to the internet to buy untested and unlicensed slimming pills that make bold claims about their miracle weight-loss effects. The risks can be severe, with many pills containing ingredients causing seizures, strokes, liver damage, – and even death.

Now, the UK government has launched the FakeMeds campaign to educate people about the medical products they buy. More than half of drugs available online are fake or unlicensed – that means they haven’t been tested for safety or effectiveness by regulatory organisations like the FDA in the United States, or MHRA in the UK.

Research commissioned by the UK government shows that many people are unaware that the medical products they purchase can be fake or unlicensed. But the problem is on the increase, with the internet providing easy access to untested drugs made in countries such as China and India.

Fake meds killed Prince

The risks of buying fake and unlicensed medicines was highlighted this week with the news that music legend Prince died after taking counterfeit pills. The singer died after taking pills containing Fentanyl - a synthetic opioid fifty times more powerful than heroin. But records show that he received no prescriptions for medicines in the months before he died, making him the latest victim of the trend to self-diagnose and buy medicines from outside the system.

In Europe, only sites that display the EU common logo are legitimate online pharmacies – and in the UK there are currently no medicines authorised for weight loss without a prescription.

Cooking from the inside

MHRA seized more than 240,000 doses of unlicensed slimming pills in 2015, and closed down more than 2,000 unauthorised online retailers. But new websites spring up every day.

Tragic cases such as that of the 21-year- old student Eloise Parry – who died after taking pills laced with deadly DNP, are sadly being repeated all over the world. DNP raises the metabolism to many times its natural level, resulting in victims slowly cooking from the inside.

Other ingredients can include caffeine – potentially fatal in high doses, Senna – a laxative with no calorie-burning effects, and Sibutramine – a medicine banned for use in weight-loss products in 2010 due to its links to heart attacks and strokes.

MHRA spokesperson Lynda Scammell said: “The internet offers access to a vast number of websites offering products marketed as “slimming” or “diet” pills. Many make attractive claims and offer “quick-fix” solutions, but the only pounds you will lose will be from your bank balance.

“Chances are they simply will not work, but they may contain dangerous ingredients. The consequences for your health can be devastating.

“The safest way to lose weight is to eat well and exercise. If you have serious concerns about your weight, you should consult your (doctor) or another healthcare professional.

 48 
 on: Aug 22, 2016, 06:32 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Scheme to Sell Endangered Tortoises Ends With Prison Sentences

In this week’s crime blotter: tortoises from Madagascar for sale, a poached tiger, and smuggled snakes in a suitcase.

Photograph by Patricio Robles Gil, Sierra Madre, Minden Pictures
By Jani Actman
National Geographic
PUBLISHED August 21, 2016

The smugglers wrapped the 316 radiated tortoises in tin foil to avoid X-ray detection, flew them from Madagascar to China last February, and turned them over to an airport employee who snuck them to an apartment. The goal of the scheme: to breed the creatures, sell the offspring, and rake in big bucks from the sales.

But things didn’t work out that way.

Police soon busted the employee, who worked for Guangzhou Baiyun Airport in Guangzhou, a city in southeast China. They later arrested other members of the gang, including buyers from Beijing and Guangxi, a region in southern China that borders Vietnam.

Now a court has sentenced the leader of the operation to 11 years in prison, announced the NGO Wildlife Conservation Society, which provided guidance during the prosecution. The airport worker cooperated with investigators and received a five-year punishment, and sentences for the other five defendants ranged from 21 months to seven years. The gang began smuggling tortoises as early as 2014 (investigators rescued an additional 130 tortoises).

Radiated tortoises, found in the forests of Madagascar, get their name from the intricate yellow star patterns that adorn their upper shells, or carapaces. They're critically endangered, though it's unclear exactly how many remain in the wild. Habitat loss has wiped out many of these beauties, and the ones that hang on contend with poaching for their meat and the pet trade. Trade in radiated tortoises or their parts is banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a treaty signed by 182 countries that regulates wildlife transactions across borders. (Also see “How the Growing Trade in One Tortoise Puts Others at Risk”)

“Through the arrest and sentencing of these smugglers, many radiated tortoises were saved—both directly through the confiscation of the animals, and by the message sent by the sentencing,” said Aili Kang, director of the Asia program of the Wildlife Conservation Society, in a press release.

Here are other wildlife crime busts, convictions, and investigations around the world announced this past week:

RHINO RENEGADES: Members of South Africa’s Hawks investigative unit busted three men accused of possessing nearly 120 rhino horns, according to The Citizen. The men allegedly intended to sell five of the horns to an undercover agent. The men were released on bail, and the case was postponed until October 12. Poachers hunt rhinos to sell their horns to Vietnam and China, where they’re used in traditional medicine and viewed as a status symbol.

TIGER TRADING: A judge sentenced a tiger skin trader and two men who killed a tiger in the Amravati District in Maharashtra, a state in central India, to three years in prison each, the Times of India reports. The poachers sold the tiger’s skin and bones, which are used in tiger wine, a potion claimed treat rheumatism and impotence.

SEAHORSE SEIZURE: French customs officers confiscated about 2,000 dead seahorses, according to the BBC. They were found in parcels from Guinea that were destined for Vietnam, where people sell them as souvenirs and for use in traditional medicine. An estimated 24 million seahorses are plucked from the wild and traded illegally each year.

SNAKES IN A SUITCASE: Police arrested a German man at Amsterdam’s Schipol Airportafter customs officials found dozens of snakes, lizards, and other reptiles hidden in his suitcase, DutchNews.nl reports. Forty of the reptiles didn’t survive, and the others were taken to a reptile shelter. The man was on his way from South Africa to Germany to sell the animals at a reptile fair, according to DutchNews.nl.

WILDLIFE AT SEA: Law enforcement officers discovered 17 protected animals inside boxes on a cargo ship at the port of Soekarno-Hatta, in Makassar, a city in eastern Indonesia, according to the country’s Jakarta Post. The police found three black eagles, two wild cats, two weasels, two otters, and six owls hidden on the ship. They arrested two people suspected of picking up the wildlife from the port.

This story was produced by National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on wildlife crime and is made possible by grants from the BAND Foundation, and the Woodtiger Fund. Read more stories from the SIU on Wildlife Watch. Send tips, feedback, and story ideas to ngwildlife@ngs.org.

 49 
 on: Aug 22, 2016, 06:31 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Pronghorn Revival: Bringing Back America’s Fastest Fauna

Biologists launch an ambitious plan to restore a herd of the iconic animals in West Texas.

Photograph by Ben Masters
By Ben Masters
National Geogrpahic
PUBLISHED August 19, 2016

Explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark admired the sprightly pronghorn as they traveled through the western United States in 1804. They noted its matchless speed when escaping from predators, but also predicted—correctly—that its curiosity would make pronghorns easy targets for hunters.

While still listed as endangered, many pronghorn herds are now thriving thanks to conservation programs enacted nearly a century ago—but it’s not enough. The West Texas pronghorn population mysteriously crashed from about 17,000 animals in the 1980s to fewer than 3,000 in 2013, says wildlife biologist Louis Harveson, director of the Borderlands Research Institute in Alpine, Texas. Now he’s working to replenish the struggling herd by relocating a group of pronghorns from the Texas Panhandle to west Texas, 500 miles away.

“We drew a line in the sand not to see this species diminish on our watch,” Harveson says.

Pronghorns are as American as wildlife gets. More American than the bald eagle, bison, or grizzly bear, because all of those animals have close relatives on other continents. Pronghorns (a.k.a. antelope, speed goat, and Antilocapra americana) are the only living species in the family Antilocapridae and found solely in North America.

They can run up to 60 miles (97 kilometers) per hour—a speed unnecessary now, but very necessary about 12,000 years ago, when now-extinct carnivores like American cheetahs, lions, dire wolves, and saber-tooth cats forced them to evolve into the fastest mammalian herbivores alive today. They’ve adapted and thrived for millions of years through a gauntlet of natural selection that propelled even the mighty woolly mammoth, mastodon, short-faced bear, and giant sloth into extinction. Yet less than a century and a half ago, hunting caused this great species to be nearly written off as doomed to the dusty shelves of museums and memory.

Similar to bison, wolves, grizzly bears, and elk, pronghorns were nearly eliminated during the era of European settlement of North America. When Lewis and Clark returned home, they relayed stories of the pronghorns to naturalists back east, who had never heard of such an beast. “Of all the animals we have seen the Antelope seems to possess the most wonderful fleetness. Shy and timorous they generally repose only on the ridges, which command a view of all the approaches of an enemy,” the explorers wrote. “When alarmed, their rapid career seems more like the flight of birds than the movement of an earthly being.”

Beautifully written, Lewis and Clark, but the pronghorns' most wonderful fleetness, shy and timorous behavior, and great velocity were no match for the market hunters of the 19th century, who decimated the pronghorn population from tens of millions of individuals to a mere 10,000 by the 20th century.

Members of the Boone and Crockett Club, co-founded by Theodore Roosevelt, George Bird Grinnell, and others in 1887 as one of the first American hunting and conservation organizations, sounded the alarm. In the early 1910s, Grinnell told the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Walter Fisher that “The Club is much concerned about the fate of the pronghorn which appears to be everywhere rapidly diminishing.”

A decade later, the situation had not improved. “Personally, I think that the antelope are doomed, yet every attempt should be made to save them,” wrote member Charles Sheldon to Grinnell, who was by then chairman of the club’s game preservation committee.

This time, their pleas for help were answered. In one of the greatest comeback stories in conservation history, presidents, politicians, conservationists, biologists, and philanthropists rallied behind the pronghorns to save the species from extinction. They enacted hunting regulations, protected habitat, and designated public lands to ensure a place for pronghorns to live into the future.

In the decades since then, pronghorn populations have risen from a low of 13,000 individuals to approximately 500,000 individuals in northern Mexico, the Great Plains and American West, and in southern Canada.

Louis Harveson, the biologist now tasked with restoring the herds of West Texas, has devoted his life to rangeland science and to bringing back the amazing megafauna that used to call the Big Bend area home. He presents the next chapter in the pronghorns' story of survival.

Initially, my jaw dropped when he told me about his project. Did I hear him correctly? Was he really going to catch more than a hundred pronghorns, the fastest land mammal in North America, with a net shot out of a helicopter? Could he really tackle them, transport them by chopper, and drive them in a trailer to their new range in Texas?

Well, that was Harveson’s plan. The pronghorns had already proved to be a resilient species. But it still wouldn’t be easy.

 50 
 on: Aug 22, 2016, 06:27 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
ExxonMobil Lies – They Still Oppose Any Climate Change Remedies

By Rmuse on Sat, Aug 20th, 2016 at 4:58 pm
PoliticusUSA

*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*

Over the course of the past couple of years some of the giants in the oil industry have intimated that they were converting themselves into champions of the environment and were on the forefront of and leading the battle to halt anthropogenic climate change. Obviously, it was a gargantuan shift in policy to the days of paying Republicans in Congress and state legislatures to fight any and all efforts to confront the greatest threat to human survival in man’s history; in many circles it was just too good to be true. As is normally the case when something appears too good to be true, the concept of the oil industry joining the fight against climate change was just that: too good to be true and a monumental farce.

About a month ago, Exxon Mobil Corporation appeared to be publicly ramping up its lobbying efforts of other energy companies to support a carbon tax. Obviously, it sounded too good to be true. The effort was part of a phony response to growing pressure on the fossil fuel industry to do its part to “address the politically charged issue” of global climate change. The “publicity scam” was meant to portray ExxonMobil as making a conscientious shift away from its typical resistance to doing anything to reduce carbon emissions driving climate change, and instead was leading the rest of the dirty energy industry to make a 180-degree change. However, like anything connected to the Koch brothers, ExxonMobil has no intent of doing anything more than talk about a carbon tax as evidenced by its continued campaign contributions to Republicans who reliably oppose and block any and all efforts to save the climate.

Beginning in 2009, ExxonMobil, like Shell Oil cautioning about the danger of climate change, was acting as if they embraced the idea of a carbon tax to aid in reducing the amount of carbon being poured into the atmosphere. However, while appearing to be stricken with a social ethic, the oil giant devotedly funded Republicans in Congress who determined long ago that their political life-goal was working resolutely to oppose any effort remotely connected to fighting climate change. They were particularly opposed to a European-style cap-and-trade system and vehemently emphasized their aversion and certain obstruction of implementing a carbon tax.

In fact, although Exxon has claimed to support a carbon tax since 2009, as late as March 2015 thirty of the 40 senators who voted to pass a budget amendment (58 to 42) prohibiting enactment of anything close to a carbon tax were recipients of ExxonMobil campaign contributions. It is noteworthy that the thirty senators began receiving ExxonMobil contributions in about 2010, barely a year after the oil company started paying lip service to the benefits to humanity of a carbon tax to save the planet. At the time, the carbon tax campaign was a complete farce of a cover story that it was a more palatable choice in Congress than the Democrat’s preferred cap-and-trade, even though the world’s largest oil company spent millions to ensure that neither cap-and-trade nor a carbon tax passed to combat climate change.

A similar situation occurred two years earlier in March 2013 when 156 members of the House cosponsored a non-binding resolution stating categorically that “a carbon tax would be detrimental to American families and businesses and is not in the best interest of the United States.” Of the 156 House member co-sponsors, ninety-three percent of those members’ campaigns were being generously funded by the same oil company, ExxonMobil that “publicly” endorsed the benefit of a tax on carbon.

Fast forward to last December when, the company’s outgoing vice president of public and government affairs, Ken Cohen wrote about ExxonMobil’s strong support for a carbon tax. He even took time to boast that the world’s largest oil company had been holding “countless private briefings with members of Congress on carbon tax policy options.” However, when a June 2016 vote came up in the House to pass another resolution similar to the one in 2013, eighty-five percent of the members voting to resolve that “a carbon tax would be detrimental to the United States economy” were recipients of ExxonMobil political donations; this time since 2013.

It is noteworthy that 82 of the ExxonMobil campaign donation recipients were affirmed and documented climate change and science deniers. One can only envision what kind of “campaign donation” conversations Exxon had with climate deniers during those “countless private briefings;” they certainly couldn’t have been about enacting a carbon tax due to something the 82 House members claimed was non-existent.

None of these various oil industry feints toward regard for the Earth’s climate should be the least bit surprising. All of America’s oil industry giants, and less significant fossil fuel entities as well, and the Koch brothers and their anti-climate cohort in ALEC and the Heritage Foundation portray themselves as acutely concerned about saving the environment, combatting climate change and protecting Americans’ health. All the while the Koch brothers, ExxonMobil, Shell Oil and the rest of the fossil fuel industry heavily fund any and all efforts to block real determinations to combat climate change; including paying, primarily Republicans, House and Senate members handsomely to block even minimal climate change efforts.

With a general election looming, and more Americans finally grasping that climate change is real, here to stay and an existential threat to their survival, it is typical for the oil industry, particularly a giant like ExxonMobil, to promote themselves as champions in the fight to reduce global warming. It is highly likely the industry is well aware that many voters pay heed to which corporation is funding their representatives or candidates seeking their votes and is doing what is needed for image control. But no American should be deluded into thinking that ExxonMobil, the Kochs, or any of their dirty energy cabal have any interest in combating climate change or supporting any candidate concerned with doing whatever is needed to save the planet’s climate; like the Republicans they fund it is just not in their nature.


*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*

Over the course of the past couple of years some of the giants in the oil industry have intimated that they were converting themselves into champions of the environment and were on the forefront of and leading the battle to halt anthropogenic climate change. Obviously, it was a gargantuan shift in policy to the days of paying Republicans in Congress and state legislatures to fight any and all efforts to confront the greatest threat to human survival in man’s history; in many circles it was just too good to be true. As is normally the case when something appears too good to be true, the concept of the oil industry joining the fight against climate change was just that: too good to be true and a monumental farce.

About a month ago, Exxon Mobil Corporation appeared to be publicly ramping up its lobbying efforts of other energy companies to support a carbon tax. Obviously, it sounded too good to be true. The effort was part of a phony response to growing pressure on the fossil fuel industry to do its part to “address the politically charged issue” of global climate change. The “publicity scam” was meant to portray ExxonMobil as making a conscientious shift away from its typical resistance to doing anything to reduce carbon emissions driving climate change, and instead was leading the rest of the dirty energy industry to make a 180-degree change. However, like anything connected to the Koch brothers, ExxonMobil has no intent of doing anything more than talk about a carbon tax as evidenced by its continued campaign contributions to Republicans who reliably oppose and block any and all efforts to save the climate.

Beginning in 2009, ExxonMobil, like Shell Oil cautioning about the danger of climate change, was acting as if they embraced the idea of a carbon tax to aid in reducing the amount of carbon being poured into the atmosphere. However, while appearing to be stricken with a social ethic, the oil giant devotedly funded Republicans in Congress who determined long ago that their political life-goal was working resolutely to oppose any effort remotely connected to fighting climate change. They were particularly opposed to a European-style cap-and-trade system and vehemently emphasized their aversion and certain obstruction of implementing a carbon tax.

In fact, although Exxon has claimed to support a carbon tax since 2009, as late as March 2015 thirty of the 40 senators who voted to pass a budget amendment (58 to 42) prohibiting enactment of anything close to a carbon tax were recipients of ExxonMobil campaign contributions. It is noteworthy that the thirty senators began receiving ExxonMobil contributions in about 2010, barely a year after the oil company started paying lip service to the benefits to humanity of a carbon tax to save the planet. At the time, the carbon tax campaign was a complete farce of a cover story that it was a more palatable choice in Congress than the Democrat’s preferred cap-and-trade, even though the world’s largest oil company spent millions to ensure that neither cap-and-trade nor a carbon tax passed to combat climate change.

A similar situation occurred two years earlier in March 2013 when 156 members of the House cosponsored a non-binding resolution stating categorically that “a carbon tax would be detrimental to American families and businesses and is not in the best interest of the United States.” Of the 156 House member co-sponsors, ninety-three percent of those members’ campaigns were being generously funded by the same oil company, ExxonMobil that “publicly” endorsed the benefit of a tax on carbon.

Fast forward to last December when, the company’s outgoing vice president of public and government affairs, Ken Cohen wrote about ExxonMobil’s strong support for a carbon tax. He even took time to boast that the world’s largest oil company had been holding “countless private briefings with members of Congress on carbon tax policy options.” However, when a June 2016 vote came up in the House to pass another resolution similar to the one in 2013, eighty-five percent of the members voting to resolve that “a carbon tax would be detrimental to the United States economy” were recipients of ExxonMobil political donations; this time since 2013.

It is noteworthy that 82 of the ExxonMobil campaign donation recipients were affirmed and documented climate change and science deniers. One can only envision what kind of “campaign donation” conversations Exxon had with climate deniers during those “countless private briefings;” they certainly couldn’t have been about enacting a carbon tax due to something the 82 House members claimed was non-existent.

None of these various oil industry feints toward regard for the Earth’s climate should be the least bit surprising. All of America’s oil industry giants, and less significant fossil fuel entities as well, and the Koch brothers and their anti-climate cohort in ALEC and the Heritage Foundation portray themselves as acutely concerned about saving the environment, combatting climate change and protecting Americans’ health. All the while the Koch brothers, ExxonMobil, Shell Oil and the rest of the fossil fuel industry heavily fund any and all efforts to block real determinations to combat climate change; including paying, primarily Republicans, House and Senate members handsomely to block even minimal climate change efforts.

With a general election looming, and more Americans finally grasping that climate change is real, here to stay and an existential threat to their survival, it is typical for the oil industry, particularly a giant like ExxonMobil, to promote themselves as champions in the fight to reduce global warming. It is highly likely the industry is well aware that many voters pay heed to which corporation is funding their representatives or candidates seeking their votes and is doing what is needed for image control. But no American should be deluded into thinking that ExxonMobil, the Kochs, or any of their dirty energy cabal have any interest in combating climate change or supporting any candidate concerned with doing whatever is needed to save the planet’s climate; like the Republicans they fund it is just not in their nature.

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