Tuesday, January 31, 2012

It's Getting Hot In Here...

I do not think you could find a sane person at this point, who would question some of the largest environmental disasters our species brought upon this fragile planet: DDT in the 60s, acid rain in the 70s, ozone depletion in the 80s and finally anthropomorphic global warming in the late 90s and 2000s. All of them except the last one (as of today) were averted to some extend by a joint cooperation of many nations and all of as together.

The crazy thing is that while all of those issues had gone through a period of scientific uncertainty (as they should, given the proper scientific process), they also encountered a stiff opposition from denialists, usually associated with some political option. This denial went on for years, against well established scientific facts, studies and despite an overwhelming consensus from the experts in each field of study.
The methods and strategies used by such denialists have not changed for years and can be clearly seen in today's debate on the anthropomorphic global warming.

There is a number of reasons why I'm writing about this topic:

1. Wall Street Journal had a terrible article called "No Need to Panic About Global Warming", which, instead of using science to back up its claims (true or not), used a version of Godwin's Law, and invoked discredited Stalin's scientist Lysenko to drive its point, which can be otherwise refuted in a few easy steps (and, as a matter of fact has been: here, here, and here, to link to just a few of them, not to mention the letter signed by 255 National Academy of Science members).

2. National Center for Science Education (NCSE), a long time defender of quality evolution science education in the US schools, branched out and decided to use its resources on climate science as well. This move comes as no surprise, as both "controversies" keep showing up in our school systems and are driven by mostly beliefs and not real science, which is pretty much settled in both cases.

3. By pure coincidence I just finished reading "Merchants of Doubt", which connects the dots and shows pretty clearly how science has been covered up and muddled for political and financial reasons for many years, starting in the early 1950s with the tobacco industry's fight to cover up effects of smoking, to the present day with a fight to ensure that people are kept in the dark about the anthropomorphic global warming.

The science is in, the verdict has been reached, multiple studies and 99% of scientist around the world have said the same thing: our planet will be a very different place to live for our children, if we don't take action now. There is nobody else, who can fix it for us.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Day Without Internet...

... or at least part of it. However, it could become a permanent state.

Wikipedia, Reddit, Mozilla and many other sites are dark today, and Google is blocking its logo to protest.

Both SOPA and PIPA are terrible pieces of legislation and they must be stopped. Fighting on-line piracy can't be done using censorship and intimidation to legitimate Web sites and portals.

Send a message to congress to prevent many sites you take for granted (YouTube, for example) from going off line.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pasco School Board Elections - My Gripes

A few weeks ago, I’d mentioned our local Pasco County School Board campaign in one of my posts, and I received a comment to which I feel I should respond.

I reserve judgment on Mr. Stephenson’s campaign and his views when more info is available from his web site. However there are a few things that I have an issue with at this time:
1.      Taxes, fees, and fiscal matters. In my mind, a school board member should be primarily concerned with schools and education. To say point blank that raising taxes and fees for education is unacceptable makes me worried about our children, and their future education.
2.      Curriculum. Not much there when it comes to solid ideas, but here we go again… no taxes, no money from federal government, even if it means taking it away from valuable education programs and our kids. Leaving to the states to decide what are the standards and what is taught in our schools is dangerous. All it takes is a single generation of bad, irrational politicians (and we have plenty of those) to set bad standards and it’ll be very hard for any state to dig itself out of that hole (as the next generation, being poorly educated, would continue to dig the hole even deeper). US can be competitive in a global economy only if our children are educated to the highest standards. This also applies to Mr. Stephenson’s comments on International Baccalaureate (which he would like to remove completely): “the curriculum for the IB program is written with an emphasis on ideals of global citizenry rather than emphasizing ideals of American citizenship.” I’m not even sure what that means, except that it sounds like a sound bite taken from Fox News? We live in a global marketplace and global, interconnected economy. Pretending that we can disconnect our children from other cultures and points of view, just because we don’t like them (or we think that our point of view is the only one worth teaching) will only make them less competitive in that global market. Even if we think that some of our ways are better than the ways of others, it’ll take broad knowledge of other cultures to have any impact. I’m also not impressed by a blank opposition to a so called “radical environmentalism”, supposedly contained in the IB program. I think we are on a very well-defined path to destroying our planet and to say that we should not be teaching our children how to better care for it is irresponsible. If our children don’t who will? Maybe Mr. Stephenson should define what ideas he considers “radical” to make the discussion more concrete. To sum up, I would like to see more of his ideas on curriculum: social studies, science and other topics, with some details and not just general, ideological talking points.
3.      Vouchers and charter schools. I’m a bit split on this one. While I like the idea of charter schools, I’m concerned that they can lead to a lack of control over their curriculum and standards. There needs to be a firm control over them to ensure they don’t become ideological (I agree with Mr. Stephenson that ideology of any kind has no place in our schools). However, I do not agree with Amendment 7 proposal, as I think that no tax funds should go to any religious organizations. Period.
As I live in Pasco County and have my son in a public school here, I want to ensure the best possible education for him and others, who will live in a much more demanding, global world from the one we grew up in. This can only be achieved with an education system that’s placed on the top of our priority list, that’s well funded and that teaches children critical thinking, math, science and openness to the world outside of our own. Let’s hope our next local School Board members understand and implement just that.