Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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Humanity

We need contact with nature for the sake of our sanity

Jonathan Lambert writes: The experience of natural spaces, brimming with greenish light, the smells of soil and the quiet fluttering of leaves in the breeze can calm our frenetic modern lives. It’s as though our very cells can exhale when surrounded by nature, relaxing our bodies and minds. Some people seek to maximize the purported therapeutic effects of contact with the unbuilt environment by embarking on sessions of forest bathing,

No marine ecosystems left that are unaffected by plastic waste, study suggests

The Guardian reports: The world’s deepest ocean trenches are becoming “the ultimate sink” for plastic waste, according to a study that reveals contamination of animals even in these dark, remote regions of the planet. For the first time, scientists found microplastic ingestion by organisms in the Mariana trench and five other areas with a depth of more than 6,000 metres, prompting them to conclude “it is highly likely there are

Is a more generous society possible?

By Leah Shaffer In January 2016, Cathryn Townsend set out to live among “the loveless people.” So named by anthropologist Colin Turnbull, the Ik are a tribe of some 11,600 hunter-gatherers and subsistence farmers living in an arid and harsh mountainous region of Uganda. Turnbull studied the Ik in the 1960s and famously characterized them as “inhospitable and generally mean” in his book The Mountain People. He documented how young

World’s food supply under ‘severe threat’ from loss of biodiversity

The Guardian reports: The world’s capacity to produce food is being undermined by humanity’s failure to protect biodiversity, according to the first UN study of the plants, animals and micro-organisms that help to put meals on our plates. The stark warning was issued by the Food and Agriculture Organisation after scientists found evidence the natural support systems that underpin the human diet are deteriorating around the world as farms, cities

Humans cannot survive without them yet within a century the world’s insects may be extinct

The Guardian reports: The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, according to the first global scientific review. More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a

Rising temperatures could melt most Himalayan glaciers by 2100, threatening the water supply of 25% of global population

The New York Times reports: Rising temperatures in the Himalayas, home to most of the world’s tallest mountains, will melt at least one-third of the region’s glaciers by the end of the century even if the world’s most ambitious climate change targets are met, according to a report released Monday. If those goals are not achieved, and global warming and greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rates, the Himalayas

David Suzuki: ‘It’s very, very late and urgent’ to take climate action if we want to prevent human extinction

 

Global WEIRDing is a trend we can’t ignore

By Kensy Cooperrider For centuries, Inuit hunters navigated the Arctic by consulting wind, snow and sky. Now they use GPS. Speakers of the aboriginal language Gurindji, in northern Australia, used to command 28 variants of each cardinal direction. Children there now use the four basic terms, and they don’t use them very well. In the arid heights of the Andes, the Aymara developed an unusual way of understanding time, imagining

The 26 richest people possess as much wealth as half the world’s population

The Guardian reports: The growing concentration of the world’s wealth has been highlighted by a report showing that the 26 richest billionaires own as many assets as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of the planet’s population. In an annual wealth check released to mark the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the development charity Oxfam said 2018 had been a year in which

Insect collapse: ‘We are destroying our life support systems’

The Guardian reports: “We knew that something was amiss in the first couple days,” said Brad Lister. “We were driving into the forest and at the same time both Andres and I said: ‘Where are all the birds?’ There was nothing.” His return to the Luquillo rainforest in Puerto Rico after 35 years was to reveal an appalling discovery. The insect population that once provided plentiful food for birds throughout

New plant-focused diet would ‘transform’ planet’s future

The Guardian reports: The first science-based diet that tackles both the poor food eaten by billions of people and averts global environmental catastrophe has been devised. It requires huge cuts in red meat-eating in western countries and radical changes across the world. The “planetary health diet” was created by an international commission seeking to draw up guidelines that provide nutritious food to the world’s fast-growing population. At the same time,

1.32 million Jews were killed in just three months during the Holocaust

Live Science reports: Operation Reinhard, known as the single largest murder campaign during the Holocaust, was worse than historians imagined. In a mere three months, at least 1.32 million Jewish people died — close to one-quarter of all the Jewish victims who perished during World War II, a new study finds. The finding is based on an old data set that tallied the number of Jews who were forced from

Yuval Noah Harari sees a big-data threat to humanity

Steve Paulson interviews historian Yuval Noah Harari: What’s different about this moment in history? What’s different is the pace of technological change, especially the twin revolutions of artificial intelligence and bioengineering. They make it possible to hack human beings and other organisms, and then re-engineer them and create new life forms. How far can this technology go in changing who we are? Very far. Beyond our imagination. It can change

Portrait of the Earth at the threshold of climate catastrophe

The Guardian reports: On Sunday morning hundreds of politicians, government officials and scientists will gather in the grandeur of the International Congress Centre in Katowice, Poland. It will be a familiar experience for many. For 24 years the annual UN climate conference has served up a reliable diet of rhetoric, backroom talks and dramatic last-minute deals aimed at halting global warming. But this year’s will be a grimmer affair –

The insect apocalypse is here. What does it mean for the rest of life on Earth?

Brooke Jarvis reports: Sune Boye Riis was on a bike ride with his youngest son, enjoying the sun slanting over the fields and woodlands near their home north of Copenhagen, when it suddenly occurred to him that something about the experience was amiss. Specifically, something was missing. It was summer. He was out in the country, moving fast. But strangely, he wasn’t eating any bugs. For a moment, Riis was

You can’t characterize human nature if studies overlook 85 percent of people on Earth

By only working in their own backyards, what do psychology researchers miss about human behavior? Arthimedes/Shutterstock.com By Daniel Hruschka, Arizona State University Over the last century, behavioral researchers have revealed the biases and prejudices that shape how people see the world and the carrots and sticks that influence our daily actions. Their discoveries have filled psychology textbooks and inspired generations of students. They’ve also informed how businesses manage their employees,