Tag Archives: justice
In 2017, I couldn’t stop trying to identify corvids. It’s harder than you might think. My latest challenge: a photo of a black bird on the ground. It’s got the fluffy neck feathers of an adult raven and the blue eyes of a baby crow. I’m going with: Raven.
Turns out it’s an Australian raven, a species identifiable by their bright blue eyes. By the rules of #CrowOrNo, I win, because I correctly guessed it’s not a crow. (Though in fairness, I’d call it a draw.)
#CrowOrNo is a weekly Twitter challenge hosted by University of Washington crow scientist Kaeli Swift. Each week, she posts a picture of a bird, which always — to the untrained eye — looks an awful lot like a crow. For a few hours, the eager public submits guesses as to whether it’s a crow, or no. After the big reveal, she explains the clues to use to tell crows from their cousins.
The challenge helps illustrate the large and surprisingly complex world of corvids, a smart family of big-brained birds that includes crows, ravens, and jays. It also shines light on some great crow-themed mysteries, like why some crows have caramel-colored feathers.
That’s the value of taking science out of the lab to the social media sphere, like Swift is doing. And, crow or no, I think we could all use a little more science in our lives.
Jesse Nichols is a contributing assistant video producer at Grist.
Growing up in the ’90s, some of my favorite people in the world were Bill Nye, Cookie Monster, and Wishbone. That definitely did NOT make me one of the cooler kids at school, who got to chat about cable TV shows I knew nothing about.
But hey, my buddy Bill gave me the crazy idea that science was fun. Wishbone instilled in me a love of reading. And Sesame Street legit taught me, a new immigrant kid from the Philippines, how to speak English.
Now I write about the environment, with a special focus on all the nerdy, science-y, but supremely important environmental stuff that impacts kids in marginalized communities. Those are the kids who might rely on things like public broadcasting to close educational gaps — just like I did. It helped me get to where I am today.
So when Bill Nye resurfaced in 2017 in a big way — with a new series on Netflix and in a new documentary about the man behind the bow tie, I was obsessed. In the film, he meets YouTubers taking the torch when it comes to making fun, open-to-anyone educational videos. It’s all part of his quest to protect science education and keep it accessible to kids. And what makes the documentary even cooler for me? It’s on PBS.
Justine Calma is a Grist fellow.
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In a long-awaited decision, the Nebraska Public Service Commission announced its vote Monday to approve a tweaked route for the controversial tar sands oil pipeline.
The 3-2 decision is a critical victory for pipeline builder TransCanada after a nearly decade-long fight pitting Nebraska landowners, Native communities, and environmentalists activists against a pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
After years of intense pressure, President Obama deemed the project “not in the national interest” in 2015; President Trump quickly reversed that decision earlier this year. But TransCanada couldn’t go forward without an approved route through Nebraska, which was held up by legal and political proceedings.
In the meantime, it’s become unclear whether TransCanada will even try to complete the $8 billion project. The financial viability of tar sands oil — which is expensive to extract and refine — has shifted in the intervening years, and while KXL languished, Canadian oil companies developed other routes to market.
The commission’s decision also opens the door to new litigation and land negotiations. TransCanada will have to secure land rights along the new route; one dissenting commissioner noted that many landowners might not even know the pipeline would potentially cross their property.
Meanwhile, last Thursday, TransCanada’s original Keystone pipeline, which KXL was meant to supplement, spilled 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota. Due to a 2011 Nebraska law, the commissioners were unable to consider pipeline safety or the possibility of spills in their decision.
Nearly two months after Hurricane Maria, public health researchers in Puerto Rico are limited by the same lack of power, clean water, and infrastructure they are there to study.
Puerto Rico–born José Cordero is one such scientist. In the journal Nature, he describes leading a team through the devastated landscape to collect data on how drinking water contamination affects pregnant women. The scientists have to hurry to finish their work everyday, before night falls across the largely powerless island. Limited telephone access makes it difficult to get in touch with subjects.
Cordero’s project started six years ago to focus on water pollution and pre-term births, but this year’s hurricane has changed both the focus and the level of difficulty of the work. Other researchers have been hampered by hospitals that can’t administer routine tests and hurricane-damaged equipment, making it difficult to collect data on how air and water pollution are affecting health.
Still, Cordero’s team has managed to contact several hundred woman and collect samples of groundwater and tap water from homes near flooded Superfund sites. As he told Nature: “The kind of work we’re doing … has to be done now, because a few years from now, it’s too late.”
At a hearing on the federal response to the 2017 hurricane season, New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler questioned the EPA’s decision to declare water drawn from the Dorado Superfund site OK to drink.
In 2016, the agency found that water at Dorado contained solvents that pose serious health risks, including liver damage and cancer. Yet after CNN reported that Hurricane Maria survivors were pulling water from the site’s two wells, the EPA conducted an analysis and found the water fit for consumption.
When Nadler asked Pete Lopez, administrator for Region 2 of the EPA, why his agency changed its position, Lopez responded that the chemicals are present in the water, but are within drinking water tolerance levels.
The EPA’s standards for drinking water are typically higher than international norms, John Mutter, a Columbia University professor and international disaster relief expert, told Grist. Nonetheless, he believes it is unusual for the EPA to declare water safe to drink just one year after naming it a Superfund site.
At the hearing, Nadler said the situation was “eerily similar” to the EPA’s response after 9/11 in New York. One week after the attacks, the agency said the air in the neighborhood was safe to breathe. But since then, 602 people who initially survived the attack have died from cancer or aerodigestive issues like asthma, and thousands more have become sick.
“The [EPA’s] history of making mistakes makes you feel like perhaps they should be challenged,” says Mutter, citing the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan.