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Contents contributed and discussions participated by Micah Leinbach

Micah Leinbach

Is the US Army "situating?" - 1 views

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    Sure, its a word that can mean a lot of things, but it sure looks like the US Army is taking a more situated approach to their tactics in the coming years. They're combining many means of approaching an area or situation (special ops, disaster relief, conventional combat, etc...) and combining teams to focus on regional areas (they'll receive language training, cultural training, and even equipment specific for regions where they can develop expertise).

    Even their training has the "mixed up" look of situated studies: "The training will focus on what the military calls 'hybrid' scenarios, in which a single battle space may require the entire continuum of military activity from support to civil authorities to training local security forces to counterinsurgency to counterterrorism raids to heavy combat."

    It isn't exactly academia, but I see some similarities...
Micah Leinbach

Carbon Emissions Are Good - 1 views

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    From everybody's favorite National Review, a case for global warming - not only existing, but being really, really awesome. And this claim is even claimed to be based on science.

    Pretty interesting way of thinking. Especially once you accept that change is going to happen, there is something to be said for the logic of we-should-strive-to-maximize-primary-productivity-in-ecosystems (arguably).

    Really curious what people think, particularly the more ecologically and biologically minded among us.
Micah Leinbach

Maps, values, information sharing (and Wisconsin) - 3 views

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    Wisconsin is one of two states to have a "State Cartographer," and man does he have some interesting stuff to say. The interview here speaks to GIS software and technology, but also the broader perspectives on exactly what it is a map does, and how it does it. Particularly interesting when he speaks about values - every map has them, he says, they are not neutral parties. Is this true for other tools we have for conveying information?
Micah Leinbach

Asian Carp: Invasives, economies, ecologies, etc... - 0 views

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    I plug this one a lot, and the Monitor has great coverage on it, but I'll put it out there again. First, because the news that the Supreme Court is not hearing a case on the issue is pertinent both to this issue, and to the chance to have established some sense of precedent for similar environmental cases in the future, as that becomes a bigger and bulkier part of society (and therefore the law). Second, because it really highlights the destructive capabilities of things causing environmental change, even in real time.

    I think one of the most interesting parts comes in here:

    "If the Asian carp does take hold in the Great Lakes, the ecosystem will no doubt do what ecosystems do best: adapt. After all the term "invasive species" is, by definition, relative, often marking a transitional phase as a species establishes itself in a new ecosystem. ...Whether the economy adapts to the Asian carp, however, remains to be seen."

    That highlights the real reason there is so much concern. These lakes are damned important to the well-being of the states around them. And its not just the Great Lakes, once in place Asian Carp readily move into wetlands, river ways, and even other lakes. Minnesota calls itself the land of 10,000 lakes, Wisconsin has more in its "Lakes District", and Michigan follows suit. The economies built around them have covered most of my summer pay over the past few years, so this is a very personal issue as well.
Micah Leinbach

Mount Everest becoming unclimbable due to climate change - 0 views

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    Could Mt. Everest be the Panda of movements attempting to address issues of global warming? It isn't exactly charismatic megafauna, but maybe for climactic problems a bit of "charismatic geology" could do the trick?
Micah Leinbach

The Wages of Eco-Angst - 0 views

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    From the NYT opinions blog. It may be old news now, but its always good to remember that the way we think about things - cognitively or not - does impact the things we do about them. Here we see how fear influences environmental policy and our own health in potentially deleterious ways. Strikingly similar to much of Barry Glassner's research as well, I believe.
Micah Leinbach

Ice caps not melting as much as we thought? - 0 views

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    Probably a must-read for those interested in climate issues, since this article makes the claim that glacial losses may be 10% that of what we once thought. Which raises the question of how serious climate change is, versus what we say it is, how issues like this reflect on environmentalism, and more.

    In particular, it calls to mind environmentalism's dependence on science as justification, which often works well, but sometimes scientific knowledge is improved and (therefore) changed. It isn't a clean way of accessing the truth, and you're taking a risk with much of science when its new. Those in hydrology can appreciate how imperfect much of the data collection and interpretation we have is, to speak to this point.

    For those who get nervous, the Christian Science Monitor is not religiously run or influenced, only founded by a religious institution historically. And they cover climate change news on the regular, without an agenda for skepticism. So don't let that throw you.
Micah Leinbach

Wind power: Clean energy, dirty business? - 0 views

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    Perhaps alternative energy technology's most promising industry, wind, is finding itself to be far more controversial as it becomes far more common and popular. Partially, this is just a good old example of showing us how nothing is perfect. But it does beg the question of large scale energy industry period - are those who see no place for that, in any form, on to something?
Micah Leinbach

An Overview: Altering Environmental Strategy - 0 views

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    Mainstream environmentalism is trying to modify both its image and its approach - some focuses included radicalizing actions, localizing focuses, and antagonizing political and corporate opponents. It also focuses on how information is conveyed, focusing more on quick, easy to interpret, pretty imagery and less on pessimistic facts and figures. Bill McKibben is cited as one of the acclaimed leaders of this approach, particularly given the Keystone XL Pipeline issue (discussed earlier in the year in 220). Notably, another headline sharing the papers this week is on that very pipeline - a recent payroll tax move passed by the senate requires a final decision on the project within 90 days. Given that the success was for the decision to be postponed until after the elections, that has been largely undone. It will be interesting to see how that success plays out, and if that reflects on the themes of this article. It bears the question: if you were the political adviser to the environmental movement, what advice would you give?
Micah Leinbach

Kermit the Frog not only green, but red? Communism and the muppets. - 0 views

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    I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Fox News isn't the go-to site for news for most folks reading this. But for the sake of debate, lets not jump right into mockery for their latest claim: the muppets are commies, and their critique of the oil industry is part of a broader leftist media anti-oil campaign that is decades old, and has indoctrinated a new generation of environmentalists.

    Now, I'm sure there are crazy elements to this. I think using language that implies it is some sort of organized, left-of-center conspiracy is already off the mark. BUT is there some weight to this? The left does have a lot of media dominance in its own circles, and entertainment media has its fair share. And how many movies do feature industrialists, smokestacks, and such as evil? Does the message need to be explicit? I would not be surprised to find that an analysis of many of the films and narratives we are subjected to do have a fairly reliable evil industrialist archetype. I am curious how much that shapes our perception of reality.
Micah Leinbach

In-Depth Series: Rice 2.0 - 1 views

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    Rice is responsible for feeding half the world, or more than 3.5 billion people. And along its path from paddy to plate, it influences (and is influenced by) a ton of things. This reminds me of other studies we've read that follow one particular item from a diverse range of perspectives. Fun read for an international food perspective very much rooted in the East - perhaps something to chew on for next years symposium?
Micah Leinbach

Got Invasives? Eat them. - 0 views

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    This article highlights the efforts to make Asian Carp, the next big threat to the Great Lakes (and the multi-million dollar fishing and tourism industries there) the next big food hit (or at least big enough to get people to fish them out). After all, as one expert says, "there's a worldwide need for cheap protein, and I think it's one of those things that fit the bill."

    But I have to say, I'm a little concerned. One, I know this is not a new strategy - people tried to turn garlic mustard into the next major salad ingredient, without much luck. But I think it could end up creating even greater threats in the long run.

    For example, if the idea is to get rid of the fish, it isn't a sustainable model for a business to follow. Why build a plant for a fish we're trying to get rid of? When the plants are built, the question changes: why get rid of the fish? In Darwin's Nightmare we saw how an invasive fish became a boon and blessing to the local economy. The Midwest is different, but some of the same forces are at play.

    Second, in my eyes the most legitimate argument against invasive, non-native species is that they don't provide ecosystem function. The ecosystem concept is rooted in relationships that help carry out nutrient/energy flow, etc... and these species don't really relate to others. By giving them a functional role as a food source, we give them a little more function to a species we really care about - us. Again, the plan to actually get rid of them may backfire as their benefits appear to outweigh their costs.

    The question does remain, is that a bad thing?
Micah Leinbach

More complex economics, but easier to understand - 4 views

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    This article highlights a neat project that does two things to some branches of modern macroeconomic study. First, it complicates some basic economic ideas, moving beyond GDP to a range of other valuable metrics for measuring economic success (including, for example, diversity and resilience). Second, it takes those more complex approaches to economic systems and uses neat graphical interfaces and visual media as a means of presenting them effective. The images shown as samples are colorful, visually pleasing, and they convey a lot of information. As one author points out:

    "Our brains have been processing letters, symbols, and numbers for the last 10,000 years, but as animals, our ancestors have, for millions of years, been developing the eyes and the visual cortex of the brain. The eyes are able to process visualized information much more quickly then they can process symbols. We tried to express very complex information in a way as visual possible, so that we can use the most efficient parts of the brain as opposed to the inefficient.

    A computer can beat a human at chess, at calculations. But a computer has enormous difficulty recognizing a face. A human can do that without thinking."

    Couldn't help but think of the posters, maps, graphs, websites, and other forms of sharing data that are used through environmental studies. It ties back to another thought I have that perhaps the messenger (or medium) often matters more than the message, at least in terms of how it is received.
Micah Leinbach

Barry Glassner's Column: Green campuses are fine, but what about learning? - 4 views

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    Our beloved president and his stance on sustainability, and how it should be integrated with academics.

    And I'm into that.

    But, I'm not sure he had a lot of substance behind his writing. I don't think it is a great leap forward to just say "we should integrate academics and issues of sustainability on college campuses." While I agree with Dr. Glassner in that it isn't happening, really at all, anywhere and should therefore be brought into the dialogue, I wish he had waited until we had something to show off to the world as an institution to add a little heft to the argument.

    I'm hoping this year's Sustainability Council can be a force that comes up with some of those ideas that can get a lot of buy-in, really teach students something as they engage with the work and ideas of sustainability. But it could use some solid environmental studies students to back it up. So blatant plug, if you think you have an awesome idea, the council has funding and could help you out. Find a member (I'm representing undergraduate students, but there are others to go through as well) and maybe we can come up with a proposal.
Micah Leinbach

Citizen science, video games, and knowledge - 4 views

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    Citizen science is science done, not by highly trained experts, but by your run-of-the-mill citizen on the street. Which makes a lot of sense, since science is conceptually a very simplistic, mindless, algorithmic process (in certain forms, granted) which makes it very powerful (for anyone doubting the power of simple, mindless, algorithmic processes see evolution) .

    This article highlights the use of video games to channel citizen science towards things that the science community struggles with. For reference as to how cool this is, a problem regarding the AIDs virus that scientists struggled with for over a decade was solved in 3 weeks via this system.

    Other neat programs like this include World Without Oil, designed to put people in the place of a post-peak oil society via a Role Playing Game, where they use their own lives as the basis. People actually enacted real world change, building gardens, biking instead of driving, and reporting on it to the public, as a result of the game. It is a really convincing way to generate change, and well worth looking at just for the concept. The same company is looking at creative ways to solve other global crisis by making "mini worlds" that encourage people to have a little more agency and creativity, so that those ideas can be translated to the real world. How neat is that?
Micah Leinbach

Me vs. Rachel Carson - 3 views

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    After getting some fairly audible gasps in class after questioning Silent Spring today, I wanted to justify myself a little bit lest I be burned at the stake as some sort of heretic. The paper above is a brief and neat explanation of American academia's role in legitimizing ecology as a science, and touches on how Carson (and other's) pushed it back towards being a values-oriented natural history built heavily out of ideas that one could perhaps fit under the framework of "romanticism."

    Just to back myself up further, here (http://onlineethics.org/CMS/profpractice/exempindex/carsonindex/kroll.aspx) is another article highlighting Carson's work as "subversive silence", i.e. very value/advocacy driven. Also highlights her focus on critiquing a certain type of laboratory science for being controlling - notably, one of romanticism's main tenants is a criticism of the rationalization of nature.

    Neither of this takes away from the fact that Carson was a) a decent scientist and b) wrote a book that did a lot of good. I'm not trying to dive into the "we could've stopped malaria" arguments she gets a lot, because I think that is a straw man argument. Nor do I think that it is bad to combine knowledge and values - quite the opposite. I simply think that a work that forced scientific depictions of its subject to change in response to public frameworks of thinking should be regarded as a great political work, not a great scientific one.

    I think it may be time to move beyond Silent Spring, certainly as a work of science, and perhaps even as a work of politics, and place it on the pedestal of history that it rightly deserves.
Micah Leinbach

Other planets supporting life? - 3 views

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    The ramifications for biology and ecology of life on other planets is neat - a science until now fundamentally based in one overarching context finding a whole new one? That's crazy.

    But the question I always hear from folks concerned about environmental issues when something like this pops into the conversation is "shouldn't we figure out how not to destroy our own planet before we start looking into moving onto others?"

    And so, technologically unfeasible tasks aside, presuming we could do this, I'm curious as to whether or not others think we should. Should we?
Micah Leinbach

A Well-Regulated Wilderness - 3 views

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    Not much to say, but a solid read for some of the conceptual problems that arise with the question of wilderness. Highlights the problems of thinking that something we do as a recreational vacation can be easily incorporated into being an ongoing, preferable lifestyle (anarcho-primitivism, I'm looking at you).
Micah Leinbach

Political Science, but for real this time. - 2 views

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    A (humorous - but maybe kind of serious) op/ed on testing political philosophies scientifically. Quote that helps sum it up:

    "What do politicians do when they think they have a great idea? They just go and implement it. It's like someone thinking he's got a cure for cancer and immediately injecting it into everyone he can. That's a madman, not a scientist. You always have to at least try out your idea on monkeys to make sure it doesn't kill them."
Micah Leinbach

Great Lakes - Disaster and Opportunity - 4 views

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    This one rings close to home for me. The Great Lakes have been described as one of mankind's greatest experiments in ecology, and perhaps that true - if you discount any need for routine study and management, control groups, or any semblance of a procedure. This article is about a classic environmentalist concept - restoring ecosystems. But it is forced, as those working with the Great Lakes often are, to look at things a little differently. I was impressed that those quoted in the article actually acknowledge that some things are simply changed forever, and probably cannot be reverted to earlier forms. The focus becomes instead a forward looking one: "What good are these efforts? Scien­tists caution that restoration in any strict sense is probably impossible...Nonetheless, they argue that restoration efforts can make the lakes ecologically healthier, more resilient, and better able to absorb new shocks, including climate change and invasion by more nonnative species."

    From doing some research on this for papers last year, I'm starting to think that the Great Lakes (and I am absolutely and clearly biased) are on the front edge of intentional ecology and ecological engineering, and have forced people to come at restoration in ways a lot of smaller scale projects haven't. Its a neat place to study if you're into that sort of thing.
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