Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sustainability news from midwestern research universities for the week ending June 25, 2011

In part one, I wrote:
Part two will be sustainability from the University of Wisconsin, Indiana University, Purdue University, and Ohio State University, with a bonus story from Penn State University. Both parts include articles that comment on announcements by President Obama, so watch the videos from the White House YouTube channel.
Most of these stories have already been published in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Summer Solstice 2011 edition) on Daily Kos, but not all.

Again, I've arranged the stories so they link up into a circle--science to society to economy and back again to science. Watch for the blending.
See you some time after the sun rises with part two, which I already have the stories for.
Add another bonus story from Washington University, Saint Louis, which I had misplaced in part three, to the list. After all, W.U. is a research university and Saint Louis is a midwestern city, as is Kansas City, even though the rest of the state is a "border state" through which very few people, other than Joel Garreau, actually draws the border between the Southern and Midwestern parts of the state. The map below shows where he places it.

9 nations of north america

That map provides fodder for a dozen posts about how the country might split up and how each region has its own set of sustainability problems and solutions, as well as a fan post on my Dreamwidth and LiveJournal, but now is not the time for them. The sun's long been up, so on to the linkspam!

General Sustainability

President Obama addresses the nation on the way forward in Afghanistan. June 22, 2011.
Indiana University: IU expert: Obama speech marks 'turning point' for U.S. influence
June 23, 2011
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- President Obama announced yesterday his decision to withdraw 33,000 American troops from Afghanistan by the summer of 2012, declaring that the "surge" of U.S. military personnel ordered in 2009 is meeting its goals. But, according to a Maurer School of Law counterinsurgency expert who briefed military and civilian personnel being deployed to Afghanistan in 2009-10, the speech marks a turning point, not only for the future of Afghanistan but also for the future projection of U.S. power and influence.

"We began in Afghanistan after 9/11 with the objective of creating a modern democracy, society and economy," said James Louis Calamaras Professor of Law David P. Fidler. "The president's decision on troop withdrawals makes clear that this vision is gone for good. His speech told the American people that, because of the surge, the United States is on track to achieve a more limited mission in that country."

Fidler noted several tensions in the speech. He said that the president justified the troop withdrawals on progress made against al-Qaeda, but the most significant damage done to al-Qaeda over the past few years has come from U.S. military actions in Pakistan, including killing Osama bin Laden and drone attacks against al-Qaeda leadership, rather than the counterinsurgency operations mounted in Afghanistan.
I promised articles about war as a sustainability issue in both parts one and two and I delivered. You and I can thank President Obama for this one. He's been a rich source for general sustainability stories this week, as I've included his weekly YouTube address in part three, which summarizes the issues in the videos I've included in parts one and two.

Indiana University: IU Trustees approve the IU Public Health Initiative, work continues
June 24, 2011
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The Indiana University Board of Trustees today (June 24) approved key components of the IU Public Health Initiative, an effort by the university to address pressing health needs across the state through the establishment of the state's first schools of public health.

Trustees approved a request to change the name of the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation at IU Bloomington to the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, and to create a new IU School of Public Health-Indianapolis at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Indiana traditionally ranks poorly in major public health benchmarks, such as obesity, tobacco use, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Citing these and other Hoosier health needs, IU officials announced in 2009 plans to leverage the university's vast public health resources through the creation of schools of public health at IU Bloomington and IUPUI.
Indiana has not had a school of public health in all this time? I shouldn't be so surprised. After all, one of my favorite sayings about the state is "Welcome to Indiana, please set your clocks back 50 years."

Indiana University: New IUPUI Center for Urban Health focuses on half the world’s population
June 23, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS -- A new center at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis has a tall order to fill -- improving the quality of life for billions of people.

The Center for Urban Health, hosted by the School of Science at IUPUI, will focus on the issues that affect individuals living in urban environments. The world's population is swelling, as are urban areas. Global population is projected to reach seven billion within the next year and nearly 50 percent will live in cities.

"Cities present unique challenges to the health of the individuals who reside in them. We need to know how to help more than three billion people live in a healthy way in places with high population density; a legacy of environmental burdens; current atmospheric and soil contamination; limited amounts of green space, and many other particularly urban issues," said Gabriel Filippelli, professor of earth sciences in the School of Science at IUPUI and the biogeochemist who is the founding director of the Center for Urban Health.
I point out to my students that population problems will present themselves as urban problems because of the combination of population growth and urbanization. After reading this article, I need to add health problems to the list of issues I lecture about.

Environment, including science and technology

Speaking of adding health issues to my lectures, check out the list of ailments in this next entry.

University of Wisconsin: Study details how heat waves drive hospital admissions
Importantly, the study identifies temperature thresholds that, when surpassed, tend to prompt increases in the incidence of particular conditions.
by Terry Devitt
June 22, 2011
In cities, the number of human deaths caused by heat waves is often the barometer of summer weather severity.

Yet mortality in urban areas is only a partial measure of the human toll of extreme hot weather. Now, a new study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Purdue University and the National Center for Climatic Research and appearing this week (June 22, 2011) in the journal Climatic Change, documents the medical conditions aggravated by hot weather, the age groups most affected, and forecasts an increase in hospital admissions in urban areas due to predicted climate change and accompanying weather extremes.

The study, which utilizes meteorological, air pollution and hospital admission data for the years 1989-2005 for the city of Milwaukee, is important because it documents the primary medical causes of heat-related hospital admission. The report also assesses potential future climate change and accompanying hot weather extremes and how those may affect vulnerable populations in the urban Midwestern United States.
Heat-sensitive illnesses and conditions identified by Patz’s group include diabetes, urinary tract and renal diseases such as kidney stones, respiratory conditions, accidents and suicide attempts. Surprisingly, the study did not find an increase in the incidence of hospital admissions due to heart disease, but Patz and his colleagues speculate that acute episodes of heart disease may be more lethal and are therefore reflected in records of mortality. Mortality records were intentionally excluded from the current study.
I've mentioned to my students that more people die during heat waves than die during severe cold snaps, then point out the irony of the policies of governments and utilities that subsidize heat in the winter, but not air conditioning in the summer. That's because, as one of my students put it, "air conditioning is considered to be a luxury." Tell that to my wife.

So far, the theme of this linkspam, both parts one and two, has been health. That's not normal for me. Where are the food articles? Coming right up!

University of Wisconsin: UW-Madison expert to discuss role of research in global food security
by Jill Sakai
June 21, 2011
In the face of a changing climate and a world population forecast to reach 9 billion by 2050, feeding the world is a mounting challenge. And with 2 billion people worldwide already facing hunger or malnutrition, developing stable and effective food systems is a task of growing urgency.

On Thursday, June 23, Molly Jahn of the University of Wisconsin-Madison will discuss the need for new approaches in agricultural research in the quest to achieve global food security. The Africa College Food Security, Health and Impact Knowledge Brokering Conference, which runs June 22-24 at the University of Leeds, will focus on ways to translate scientific research results into improved food security and human health and how strategic partnerships can help deliver those impacts in sub-Saharan Africa.

A special adviser to the provost and chancellor for sustainability sciences at UW-Madison, Jahn has worked extensively in developing countries to increase crop plant biodiversity and help link crop breeding with improved nutrition and human welfare. Earlier this year, she was appointed to serve as the U.S. commissioner to the international Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change, a group of scientists and economists committed to improving the stability, security and sustainability of global food systems within the context of a changing climate.
Population and health through health and climate to climate and population, forming a small circle of topics within the overall circle of topics. Folks, I don't create the patterns, as a scientist and writer, I just discover them.

Purdue University: Study: Trying to lose weight? Lose the fat substitutes
June 21, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Fat substitutes used in popular snack foods to help people control weight may have the opposite effect, according to Purdue University research.

"These substitutes are meant to mimic the taste of fat in foods that are normally high in fat while providing a lower number of calories, but they may end up confusing the body," said Susan E. Swithers, professor of psychological sciences. "We didn't study this in people, but we found that when rats consumed a fat substitute, learned signals that could help control food intake were disrupted, and the rats gained weight as a result.

"Substituting a part of the diet with a similar tasting item that has fewer or zero calories sounds like a common-sense approach to lose weight, but there are other physiological functions at work. Tastes normally alert the body to expect calories, and when those calories aren't present we believe the systems become ineffective and one of the body's mechanisms to control food intake can become ineffective."
Speaking of circles and patterns, the path just looped back to health.

Purdue University: Fungicides may not increase corn yields unless disease develops
June 22, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Unless a corn crop is at risk of developing fungal diseases, a Purdue University study shows that farmers would be smart to skip fungicide treatments that promise increased yields.

Kiersten Wise, an assistant professor of botany and plant pathology, said fungicides used in fields where conditions were optimal for fungal diseases improved yields and paid for themselves. In fields where fungal diseases are unlikely to develop, however, applying a fungicide is likely a waste of money.

"About five years ago, we never used fungicides in hybrid corn. Then there was this push to use fungicides for yield enhancement, even without disease problems," said Wise, who collaborated on findings that were published as an American Phytopathological Society feature article in the journal Phytopathology. "We found that you would have to get a substantial yield increase for a fungicide treatment to pay for itself. We didn't see that yield increase on a consistent basis, and it wasn't predictable."
In case you're wondering where economy connects back up with the science, it happens twice--once back up at in general sustainability, and again here. Circles within circles.

Indiana University: Interesting, not just advanced classes may best promote interest in STEM careers
Findings in new paper co-authored by School of Education faculty member; grant will fund further study
June 22, 2011
BLOOMINGTON, Ind.-- A new study published in the journal Science Education finds that pushing high school students into more advanced courses in the STEM fields -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- does not have the greatest impact on whether they choose STEM careers.

"We want them to be skilled at math and science, but we also need to think about what we can do in terms of teaching it in ways to get them more interested," said Adam V. Maltese, assistant professor of science education in the Indiana University School of Education. "This provides some numbers and some data to back up the importance of that."

Maltese, also an adjunct faculty member of the Department of Geological Sciences in the College of Arts and Scienes, authored "Pipeline Persistence: Examining the Association of Educational Experiences with Earned Degrees in STEM Among U.S. Students." The articles is co-authored by Robert H. Tai, associate professor of science education at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. Maltese and Tai recently received funding that will allow them to conduct analysis of younger students' motivations to select STEM careers.
I usually place education articles in the next section, but this one was so heavily about science and the research behind the findings that I placed it here. Even so, it makes for a good lead in to the next one.

Society, including culture and politics

Purdue University: Indiana wind power conference expands to other renewable tech
June 21, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - An annual wind power conference in July is expanding this year to include other renewable energies, including solar and alternative fuels, and educational workshops to help homeowners and small businesses use the technologies.

WIndiana/Indiana Renewable Energy Conference, July 20-21 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, will bring together experts from industry, academia and government to address key issues in wind power. The conference is organized by the Indiana Office of Energy Development and the Energy Center at Purdue University's Discovery Park.

The conference kicks off with an update on the "state of the renewable energy industry" from both an Indiana and national perspective, with a keynote address by Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman.
In my weekly science digests on Daily Kos, the energy section is directly above the policy section. The above entry shows exactly why, as energy research and development are so heavily influenced by government policy.

University of Wisconsin: Work on North and South Halls preserves history, character
Because North Hall and South Hall are the earliest buildings constructed on campus, they help connect the present to the past.
By Aimee Katz
June 24, 2011
The two oldest buildings on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus have gotten a strong dose of tender loving care in recent months, with careful attention to preserving their historic status and character.

Specially trained construction crews have been working since last fall to replace mortar, fix damaged stonework and repair and re-glaze windows in the two building that date to the middle of the 19th century.

Matt Collins, project manager on the North and South Hall exterior renovation, noted that the repairs -- which should be complete by fall -- were necessary for the upkeep of these buildings.

“A significant amount of work is needed simply because of routine maintenance and the age of the buildings,” he says. “However, some of the repairs are needed because of the long-term effects of previous construction methods.”
Historic preservation is a sustainability issue, as it forms part of a policy of maintaining a bearable built environment. I'll have more to say when I post about sustainability in archeology.

Washington University, St. Louis, via Can U.S. law handle polygamy?
By Jessica Martin
June 21, 2011
HBO's Big Love and TLC's reality-TV offering Sister Wives have thrust polygamy into popular culture in the United States. Estimates are that somewhere between 50,000-100,000 families in this country are currently risking criminal prosecution by practicing plural marriage.

Proponents and detractors of polygamy use same-sex marriage to support their arguments, but that’s just a distraction, says Adrienne Davis, JD, an expert on gender relations and the William M. Van Cleve Professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.

“While the gay analogy may make for splashy punditry and good television, it distracts us from the main legal issue — polygamy challenges the regulations inherent in the conventional two-person marriage,” Davis says. “Putting aside whether you think polygamy is ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ it is important to look at whether U.S. law is up to regulating marital multiplicity.”

In her recent article, “Regulating Polygamy: Intimacy, Default Rules, and Bargaining for Equality,” published in the Columbia Law Review, Davis approaches polygamy as a problem of bargaining, cooperation and strategic behavior.
“Is it better to channel legal energy into continuing to root out, repress, and punish polygamy, or into admitting it into the marriage pantheon? The answer may hinge on whether polygamy could be effectively regulated."
Look at the date. This article appeared before New York legalized marriage equality. The timing couldn't have been more propitious--for the article, that is. The topic is another matter. Allowing polygamy may or may not increase individual freedom, but I really consider it to be something that decreases equality and actually makes thinks worse for the common person, so it may be a libertarian idea, but it isn't a liberal one. I had lots more to say about what constitutes a liberal position in Food Fight! Thoughts on liberalism and conservativism inspired by the Preface to Food, Inc., an article I plan on reposting here as "A Blast from the Past."

Indiana University: IU Public Policy Institute releases report on private, public value of higher education
June 23, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS -- With recent headlines asking "Is college worth it?" and reports of a burgeoning student loan crisis, there has been considerable public discussion about the costs and benefits of higher education.

Often, those discussions are limited to how much individuals pay for school and how much they earn upon graduation. But from a policy-making perspective, evaluating higher education requires broader measures of economic and social benefits.

This is the purpose of a research review released by the Indiana University Public Policy Institute as part of its Policy Choices for Indiana's Future project. The Policy Choices initiative is designed to provide objective recommendations on key issues for future Indiana legislative and gubernatorial candidates.

"From lower incarceration and obesity rates to higher levels of civic engagement and volunteerism, education is associated with a broad array of benefits to both individuals and society," according to the report. "While the costs incurred educating our society are enormous, and growing, we must be aware that the costs of failing to do so might be even greater."
One of the mistakes people make about higher education is to consider it to be primarily an economic activity that improves the student's future earning power and decreases the student's risk of unemployment. I'm guilty of this myself, as I use Calculated Risk's graphs of unemployment over time for Americans of different education levels, such as this one.

I make the point that the students are engaging in an activity to increase their human capital, and they are. However, human capital doesn't just consist of the skills and knowledge they can apply to economic activity. It also includes one's ability to contribute to society. Just look at the list of social benefits--"lower incarceration and obesity rates to higher levels of civic engagement and volunteerism"--for examples.


Indiana University: IU Kelley School's Leading Index for Indiana for May suggests a "wobbly" recovery
June 17, 2011
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- According to the Leading Index for Indiana (LII) in May, prospects for the state's economic recovery would seem more tenuous.

"The recovery looks increasingly wobbly," said Timothy Slaper, director of economic analysis at the Indiana Business Research Center (IBRC) in Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, which reports the monthly report.

The LII fell nearly a half point to 96.4 this month, giving up all its gains from the fall of 2010.

Other economic indicators also showed a slowdown in the recovery. The Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index™ (PCI), a real-time measure of the flow of goods to U.S. factories, retailers and consumers, fell 0.9 percent in May on the heels of a 0.5 percent decline in April.

"Based on the movements of the PCI and the LII, it looks like the economy is stuck in idle," Slaper said.
I have posted many economic condition reports in my Michigan linkspams, such as a report from Wayne State warning of stagflation in the linkspam from May 28th, but this is the first time I've included one from the surrounding states. Looks like Indiana is faring even worse than Michigan in economic growth, if not actual unemployment.

Indiana University: IU Maurer School of Law professor named to oversight council for online adult content
June 22, 2011
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law has been appointed to the policy council for a new organization advocating responsible business practices in the online adult entertainment community.

Professor Fred H. Cate is one of four founding members named to the policy council of the International Foundation for Online Responsibility (IFFOR). IFFOR is an independent nonprofit body created by ICM Registry, the organization responsible for the new .xxx top level domain (TLD), which opens to trademark owners under a sunrise launch period in September 2011.

The council will be tasked with developing policies for responsible business practices and conduct within the online adult entertainment community. This includes making adult content less accessible to children online and protecting the privacy and security of consenting adult consumers of online adult entertainment goods and services.
A .xxx top domain? That's an acknowledgment that "The Internet is for porn."

On that note, I've closed the circle from economy back to technology, so it's time to conclude this linkspam.

As for what's up next, I think it will be the sustainability in archeology post. I have all the articles I need for that one. Part three proper requires some filling out, just like last week's part three, so it will have to wait.

Now excuse me while I enjoy the wonderful weather and my walkable neighborhood and walk to my local supermarket.  Ciao!

ETA: Oops! I forgot the real ending--the article from Penn State I promised.

Penn State via High technology, not low taxes, may drive states' economic growth
June 23, 2011
High-tech training may trump tax breaks for creating more jobs and improving a state's economy, according to a team of economists.

"We found that lower state taxes were not statistically associated with a state's economic performance," said Stephan Goetz, professor of agricultural economics and regional economics, Penn State. "The tax climate was not linked to either growth or income distribution."

Goetz, who serves as director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, said states that favor low taxes do not necessarily spend funds efficiently. They may skimp on funding needed public services like road maintenance and education. Those costs are often transferred to businesses directly or become obstacles for businesses seeking to attract qualified workers to the state.

"It's essentially a case of you get what you pay for," Goetz said. "You can't attract businesses if you can't provide needed public services."
Now I have an even better tie-in between economy and technology to conclude this linkspam.

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