Taxonomy term

science and society

Thirsty Cities: Water management in a changing environment

On a clear day in November 2007, the governor of Georgia held an unusual public vigil. Before the doors of his state capitol, Gov. Sonny Perdue bowed his head, took his wife’s hand and prayed for rain.

Some called it a stunt. Others admired the gesture. Above all, one thing was clear: Northern Georgia was facing its worst drought in 100 years, and there was no easy fix. It would take unprecedented statewide efforts to save Georgia from ruin.

31 Dec 2009

Blogging on EARTH: "Climategate" scientist tells his side

SAN FRANCISCO: In November, hackers broke into the e-mail server of the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit and stole thousands of e-mails dating back to 1996 written by and to climate scientists. The e-mails, which were then leaked to the public, contained the typical stuff of science (and of e-mails, for that matter): amid discussions of data and theory, there was debate, confusion, flippancy, dark humor and questioning.

17 Dec 2009

Geomedia: Twitter gives heads-up to users and officials about earthquakes

Twitter stirs up a wide range of reactions — it’s hailed as a vital social networking service by some, despised as the ultimate waste of time by others. But the popular online message board does possess one characteristic that is universally undeniable: speed.

15 Dec 2009

Blogging on EARTH: A proposed twist on carbon trades at AGU

SAN FRANCISCO: In the ongoing climate negotiations, one issue that keeps coming up is that developing countries should be held to the same standards as the developed world.

But that’s not quite fair, say Steven Davis and Ken Caldeira (both at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif.): Much of the carbon dioxide emitted by those developing countries goes into producing goods that are exported to the developed world — which means the developing world ends up paying for others’ consumerism. In other words, we’re outsourcing our carbon dioxide emissions.

14 Dec 2009

Crystal Ball EARTH: Policy: A tale of two years

In U.S. policy, the past year was dominated by discussions of energy and climate change issues, at least in the earth sciences realm. In the first year of his administration, President Barack Obama focused on his top campaign priorities — but between discussions of healthcare reform, trying to rejuvenate the economy and setting up his cabinet, he still found time to discuss the sciences.

11 Dec 2009

Crystal Ball EARTH: Natural Hazards: Reducing society's risks

The global financial disaster of 2009 has many parallels with catastrophic natural hazards. It struck pretty much without warning, its impact was greatly exacerbated by an incredibly complex system of cascading consequences, and finally, mechanisms supposedly in place to mitigate the worse impacts (regulations, in the case of the financial system) failed. There was awareness that such a meltdown could theoretically occur, but it was considered such a low-probability event that it was evidently not worth planning for.

11 Dec 2009

Crystal Ball EARTH: Agriculture: The future will have a different face than the past

Tomorrow’s agriculture is facing an immense challenge. By 2050, the world’s population will reach somewhere between 9 billion and 10 billion people, and a greater proportion of those people will be enjoying a richer diet than today’s population. That means farmers will have to grow twice as much food. The world has already witnessed a preview of what might happen if large populations don’t receive an adequate supply of food: They do not accept their fates passively.

04 Dec 2009

Benchmarks: November 22, 1859: "On the Origin of Species" published

By David B. Williams

About a decade ago, I was fortunate enough to hold in my hands a first edition of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species.” The green cover was cracked and frayed. The cardboard backing protruded through the torn corners. I put the book down and stared at it in awe. The owner of this book was Asa Gray, one of America’s greatest botanists, an important early American supporter of natural selection, and a friend of Darwin’s.

23 Nov 2009

Court rules against Army Corps in New Orleans flooding case

A district court judge ruled Wednesday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is liable for much of the flooding in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The ruling puts the Corps and the U.S. government on the hook for millions if not billions of dollars in damages and punitive penalties, and could open the floodgates for more such lawsuits nationwide, experts say.

19 Nov 2009

Surviving field school: Better than reality TV

David Harwood’s geology field course for future teachers is not a network reality show — but it should be. The three-week course has all the humor, drama, exacting challenges and bleepable moments of “Survivor.” But in contrast to the staged setups of TV “reality” shows, Geology 160 offers billions of years’ worth of authentic geological history that students see, taste and scrape from under their fingernails.

20 Oct 2009

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