by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
Home » Posts tagged 'Human Ecology'
Tag Archives: Human Ecology
Earthquakes in Oklahoma are shaking up the politics of its natural gas friendly state government. According to a June 27th article in Energy Wire, Oklahoma’s Corporation Commission, under public pressure, will start collecting information and test data on underground injection wells.
The problem is that Oklahoma have become seismically active. Between the months of October and May Oklahoma had more magnitude 3.0 or larger earthquakes (189) than California (with 139). Other reports state that the number of quakes in Oklahoma is double the number in Caliphornia. The locations of the quakes closely correspond with fracking sites. State regulators say to need more evidence of the correlation despite the stack of scientific, peer reviewed studies supporting the correlations.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported 40 earthquakes greater than magnitude 2.5 around the world yesterday as of midafternoon — six of them were in Oklahoma and three were outside this suburb of Oklahoma City.
“You can hear them coming,” said Mary Ternes, who lives near Edmond. “You can hear the rumble and then the house shakes.”
The largest quake so far measured 5.7 and killed two people back in 2011, but the risk of higher magnitude quakes is growing.
While Oklahoman’s are beginning to come out in significant numbers to public hearings to complain, state officials and regulators are taking starting to take the first step to address their concerns.
New rules on injection wells, approved by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin last week, will require operators to perform more frequent mechanical integrity tests of disposal wells and keep daily records of the amount of fluids they inject and the pressures they use.
Meanwhile, Skinner said, state regulators have told operators to shut in several injection wells for minor violations such as excessive pressure. The Corporation Commission also held formal hearings on two injection wells proposed near existing faults and asked the operators to do additional monitoring as a condition of approval. Previously, most injection well permits were approved administratively.
According to The Oklahoman newspaper about four-hundred worried resident of Edmond, Oklahoma came out to a meeting this past Thursday evening to express their fear and concerns. Many of them had been awakened by a magnitude 3.5 quake near Edmond in the wee hours of that same morning.
The Oklahoman report:
Oklahoma Geological Survey seismologist Austin Holland said there is no way to know what has caused the unprecedented increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma, although several studies have linked temblors to oil and natural gas activity, particularly wastewater injection wells.
Many residents were no happy with the answers they got at the meeting.
the problem isn’t just happening in Oklahoma it’s happening in Texas and Ohio and many other states where fracking operations are taking place. Alan Brundrett, the mayor of a small town call Azle, in North Texas, said his town has experienced an unusual number of earthquakes. He is upset by the lack of data and transparency of local fracking operations that make it hard to assess the issues.
According to an Al Jazeera report:
Brundrett said the Texas Railroad Commission would not draw a link between fracking activities and earthquakes in the meeting, but promised to investigate the matter further.
Ramona Nye, who handles media relations for the Railroad Commission, told Al Jazeera in an emailed statement that the agency “does not have the jurisdictional authority to shut down an injection well based only on the presence of a nearby earthquake.
“There has been no scientific proof that a specific well or wells have caused the Azle-area earthquakes,” she said, adding that the commission had hired a seismologist in April who is working to determine any links between fracking and earthquakes.
State geologists in Ohio have already made the case that the quake activity there is the result of fracking activity.
According to a report from International Business Times:
Fracking involves pumping water, sand and chemicals down into wells and horizontal pipes to crack open rock and extract oil and gas. Often, the wastewater created is dumped back into the ground, which according to the U.S. Geological Survey, is linked to a sixfold increase in earthquakes from 2000 to 2011. [snip]
ast month, Ohio regulators indefinitely shut down Hilcorp Energy’s fracking operation near the Pennsylvania border after five earthquakes, one of 3.0 magnitude, rattled Ohioans.
According to Oil Price.Com, an oil and energy news site:
In March, 2014. there was a study entitled “Potentially induced earthquakes in Oklahoma, USA: Links between wastewater injection and that 2011 Mw 5.7 earthquake sequence,” [snip]The study
focused its research on seismic activity in Oklahoma over the past two years and concluded that a 4.8-magnitude earthquake centered near Prague on 5 November 2011, was “induced” by the injection wells. Two subsequent earthquakes, including a 5.7-magnitude “event” the following day, was the biggest in contemporary state history, were caused by the first earthquake and existing tectonic stresses in the earth.
The growing body of scientific evidence and the growing public concern about fracking are reaching a critical mass and even the most business friendly politicians are starting to feel the ground shift.
by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
Police officers come in two basic flavors, the “serve and protect” peace officers and the “enforce and collect” enforcement officers. These represent (in the overly simplified terms used here) two fundamentally different and incompatible philosophies that are competing for the heart and soul of the profession. I needn’t mention which view is winning out since 9/11. Still, the drama playing out among departments also plays out within departments, which might help account for some of the reasons behind the article below. You might not see it at first, but so often the emotional motivations behind what seems like petty disputes are really underlying rifts involving fundamentally different world views. That’s what I suspect is happening here in New Jersey and elsewhere around the country.
Police officers across the state are suing fellow cops and departments over everything from sexual harassment to being sent home for wearing the wrong shoes — and residents are footing the bill. We unearthed the details, and the latest tally.
In the opening account in this article a female officer in Camden is made Chief of Police. When she inspects the unmarked car that comes with the job she discovers that one of her fellow officers planted crack cocaine in the car to derail her promotion and her life. Incidents like this reveal just how serious the clash of ideologies can be within public police departments.
I had a good friend who spent his entire career in local police departments. He dedicated himself to serving the public. Sometimes that meant arresting people who endangered others or disturbed the peace, but it also meant going the extra mile to help out a resident in a pinch. In smaller towns and communities it isn’t all bad guys all the time. He was never cynical or jaded by his work, but his philosophy on small town policing set him at odds with a segment of his fellow officers. It played out in many internal conflicts and unfavorable personnel decisions over the course of his career. In the end he retired early in part because of the hostility he felt in the workplace.
I have other police officer friends, even some who are of the “enforce and collect” variety who received negative attention in their careers when they strayed a bit from that philosophy. Another person I know who aspires to be a police officer was turned off by the militancy and hardnosed cynicism that has been built into the police training curriculum. Just what does the current police training curriculum look like these days? The public has a right to know.
What all this really means is that the drama playing out in society as a whole between ultra-conservative ideologies and more liberal ideologies is also playing out in all our institutions, including police agencies. Local departments are not immune to what affects society as a whole. What’s different here is that even small, local police departments shun transparency. While they work for the public they tend to view us as civilians outside of their fraternity. It is hard to penetrate a Departments cultural view. At the same time, there is clearly money and military style equipment flowing into even local law enforcement agencies, which serves to alter the character of local policing.
These changes are real. What is missing, in addition to transparency, is a robust public debate on what role we want local police to play in our communities. Are we aware of the changes character of our local police departments and are we comfortable with those changes?
by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
It is It was Father’s Day and I was still haunted by story I hear about earlier this week. Over 70,000 children a year are coming across the US border from places like Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico, many of whom are unaccompanied minors. The United States is forced to house these children in temporary detention facilities under very difficult conditions. The situation is desperate as federal agencies and facilities designed to house adults races to accommodate the special needs of young children.
On All In with Chris Hayes, José Diaz Balart reported about the humanitarian crisis at the US Mexican border. Unaccompanied minors are crossing the border in record numbers, sometimes as many as 300 a day. Some of these children are as young as 18 months old. But also, there are couples trying to cross the border with their children who are being met by members of Mexico’s drug cartel that take one of the parents hostages for ransom, allowing the other parent and children to cross into the States.
Balart also reported on the conditions that are creating these developments. One Guatemalan mother told him gang violence in her country is so bad that when their daughters reach puberty, gang members will come in and either rape them, kill them, or take them as their property. These parents feel they have no option but to send their children across the border to safety. When US officials try to interview young children to learn who their parents are it is not unusual for 4 and 5 years to not know their parents names or the name of the towns in which they lived. In some cases, trying to reunite children with their families is impossible.
While we flounder around once again in Iraq and other foreign lands with oil resources of interest, we are ignoring the deteriorating humanitarian situations in our own hemisphere. The immigration issues we face are usually couched in protectionist language when the root of the problem is really about promoting growth and stability in foreign countries much closer to home.
We need to direct more resources and attention on foreign aid and international diplomacy among our Latin American neighbors. The social and economic conditions in these countries have reach a crisis proportions. Our immigration problem is a massive refugee problem that our politics and the media isn’t addressing. The answers to real immigration reform fall well beyond the scope of our current political dialogue.
I started thinking about part of a lyric from a song about the progress we have made and looked up the rest of the lyrics. I was struck by how well the words capture aspects of our social condition. Take a look –
The Progress Suite
“Look at the progress we’ve made
Get your vitamin quota
In your soup ready-made
Forget that there’s hunger around you
Look at the progress we’ve seen
Perhaps you should cut down
On sugar and cream
You can’t button your jacket around you
What happens now
Better pray to your gods
And hope that somehow
Far from the shack you call home
They aren’t burning the grain
That has ripened and grown
‘Cause the prices have fallen again, so
Eat up your rice, Billy dear
They’re starving in India
At least that’s what I hear
Come on, my child, cram it down you
But we are okay
In our shiny new car
Look at us now
You can see we’ve come far
Here I am playing electric guitar
Look at the progress we’ve made”
Now consider that this song was first released in 1967, that’s 46 years ago. Sadly, little has changed that can really be called progress. The artists were Chad and Jeremy. The ablum influenced my early social development and political outlook.
How do social problems that may have exist for generations suddenly become urgent public issues and the subject of broad public debate (child labor ? How is it that a public consensus can suddenly coalesce around an issue that has been clouded by uncertainty and discordant opinions for years (gay marriage comes to mind as a recent example, or the drum beat of war leading up to the invasion of Iraq).
Everyone should watch this video and see it as a possible model to explain how public consensus or spontaneous collective perception is achieved in human society. It solves, at least in an abstract way, the mystery of the 99 monkeys, otherwise known as the 100th monkey effect.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundredth_monkey_effect
Of course the 100 monkey effect has not been empirically confirmed in the primate world, however it still serves as a parable that highlights a real phenomenon involving our collective cognition. Before I go on, please see the amazing video below.
Watch 32 discordant metronomes achieve synchrony in a matter of minutes
If you place 32 metronomes on a static object and set them rocking out of phase with one another, they will remain that way indefinitely. Place them on a moveable surface, however, and something very interesting (and very mesmerizing) happens.
The metronomes in this video fall into the latter camp. Energy from the motion of one ticking metronome can affect the motion of every metronome around it, while the motion of every other metronome affects the motion of our original metronome right back. All this inter-metranome “communication” is facilitated by the board, which serves as an energetic intermediary between all the metronomes that rest upon its surface. The metronomes in this video (which are really just pendulums, or, if you want to get really technical, oscillators) are said to be “coupled.”
The math and physics surrounding coupled oscillators are actually relevant to a variety of scientific phenomena, including the transfer of sound and thermal conductivity. For a much more detailed explanation of how this works, and how to try it for yourself, check out this excellent video by condensed matter physicist Adam Milcovich.
While the math and physics of coupled oscillators may be relevant to other aspects of physics, is it possible that it is relevant to some social phenomenon as well?
To help us see what’s going on, imagine the metronomes are sitting on a pool of water. With each tic the device sends a small wave traveling in the opposit direction. In the beginning, the water’s surface would appear chaotic as the metronomes are all out of sync. Over time some waves will start to cancel out others while some waves will reinforce others. The reinforced waves impart subtle resistance forces on the out-of-sync metronomes gradually stretching the swing in one direction and shortening it in the other until all the pendlums are in sync with the ever strengthening wave patterns beneth them. It is this interaction of forces between the metronomes and the movable surface on which they sit that is referred to above as “inter-metronome communication.”
I suggest that all human communications and actions are similarly played out on a movable social fabric capable of transmitting social forces that resist or reinforce an individuals cognitive perceptions. We are all influence by the strength and direction of these pre-cognitive social forces.
To illustrate, there is an old joke about a British mother watching a large military parade and upon seeing her son marching declared, “Look at that? Everyone is out of step but my Aire!”
Now imagine that Aire is highly regarded among his peers, so much so that they feel badly for him. Some of his friends might decide to provide cover for Aire by adopting his step. Other colleagues near by might see this a funny and join in while still others might become confused, thinking they are out of step. At some point Aire’s stride and the impact on those around him could become self-reinforcing, particularly in his units formation. Soon others begin falling into step adjusting their stride thus strengthening the pattern until a “tipping point” is reach and the rest of the marchers fall in step with Aire. Suddenly that British mother is proven correct!
This is only an analogy, but it is worth considering. I suspect that the physics behind coupled oscillators may point the way to actual solutions to certain unexplained social phenomenon that has perplexed social researchers for years.
The image below is the most recent Fukushima radioactivity distribution map of the Pacific ocean. It speaks for itself of the scale of this disaster. Why isn’t this more in the news? What is our government doing for us?
TEPCO, the operators of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, can’t stop radiation from leaking into the Pacific Ocean. They are keeping the melted cores cool by pumping in fresh water, then storing the radioactive hot water in storage tanks. There are about a thousand tanks holding this radioactive cooling water on site, and they just keep adding more tanks. Meanwhile, there appear to be things happening to these tanks. Radiation levels in some tanks are rising. TEPCO had eight workers assigned to inspect and manage the tanks. That means, if they each took 15 minutes to inspect a tank, it would take over a week to inspect all the tanks. Now, as a result of the radiation levels being 18 times higher than they thought it was, they have hired 50 more people to look after these storage tanks. (See article below)
In addition to the storage tank problems and the unending addition of more tanks to capture the radioactive cooling water being pumped in and out of the reactor cores, there are cracks in the floor of the containment buildings leaking radioactive material directly into the Pacific. There are no viable plans to stop these leaks. There is also the impending disaster of the elevated spent fuel rod storage tanks that are at risk of collapsing.
ADDENDUM: One day after this post a new BBC news story [ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-23940214 ] reported Japan will spend $470 million on a plan to freeze the ground between the reactor and the Pacific Ocean. It is hoped this frozen wall will contain the radio active water leaking from the reactor containment tanks. Well holes would be drilled into the ground at certain intervals and cooling pipes connected to a massive refrgeration plant would be inserted into the holes to freeze the ground along the shore. If the heated water leaking from the reactors doesn’t defeat the cooling system, it seems to me that the wall would actually function more like a damn and would only work if the geology under the plant is just perfect for this containment method. Being a seismically active area, this seems unlikely, but we shall see.
Fukushima radiation levels 18 times higher than previously thought
Operator of Japanese nuclear power plant claims there has been no leak but has yet to discover cause of radiation spike
theguardian.com, Sunday 1 September 2013 05.22 EDT
Radiation levels 18 times higher than previously reported have been found near a water storage tank at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, causing fresh concern about the safety of the wrecked facility.
The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), said radiation near the bottom of the tank measured 1,800 millisieverts an hour – high enough to kill an exposed person in four hours. Tepco said water levels inside the tank had not changed, indicating there had not been a leak. But the company said it had yet to discover the cause of the radiation spike.
Last month Tepco said another storage tank – of the same design as the container causing concern at the weekend – had leaked 300 tonnes of radioactive water, possibly into the sea.
Japan‘s nuclear watchdog confirmed last week it had raised the severity of that leak from level 1, an “anomaly”, to level 3, a “serious incident”, on an eight-point scale used by the International Atomic Energy Agency for radiological releases.
Earlier, the utility belatedly confirmed reports that a toxic mixture of groundwater and water being used to cool melted fuel lying deep inside the damaged reactors was seeping into the sea at a rate of about 300 tonnes a day.
Experts said those leaks, which are separate from the most recent incidents, may have started soon after the plant was struck by a powerful tsunami on 11 March 2011.
The tsunami smashed into the plant after Japan’s north-east coast was rocked by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake. The waves killed almost 19,000 people, while the resulting triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi forced 160,000 people to abandon their homes.
The high radiation levels announced on Sunday highlighted the dangers facing thousands of workers as they attempt to contain, treat and store water safely, while preventing fuel assemblies damaged in the accident from going back into meltdown.
Japan’s nuclear workers are allowed an annual accumulative radiation exposure of 50 millisieverts. Tepco said radiation of 230 millisieverts an hour had been measured at another tank, up from 70 millisieverts last month. A third storage tank was emitting 70 millisieverts an hour, Tepco said. Radiation near a pipe connecting two other tanks had been measured at 230 millisieverts.
Tepco admitted recently that only two workers had initially been assigned to check more than 1,000 storage tanks on the site. Neither of the workers carried dosimeters to measure their exposure to radiation, and some inspections had not been properly recorded.
The firm responded to growing criticism of its handling of the water problem by increasing the number of workers patrolling the tanks from the current total of eight to 50.
The firm’s inability to safely store contaminated water and prevent more damage to the environment has prompted doubts about its ability to lead the Fukushima Daiichi cleanup. Decommissioning the plant is expected to cost tens of billions of dollars and last around 40 years.
Tepco recently set up a committee to focus on the water leaks and said it would seek advice from foreign decommissioning experts. The prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has said the government will play a bigger role in preventing water contamination.
The chairman of the country’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, Shunichi Tanaka, said: “We cannot fully stop contaminated water leaks right away. That’s the reality. The water is still leaking in to the sea, and we should better assess its environmental impact.”
Tepco’s handling of the leaks has drawn an angry response from local fishermen, who had to abandon plans to conduct a trial catch at the end of August. Fishermen south of Fukushima Daiichi have not been able to fish commercially since the disaster, while those north of the plant can catch only octopus and whelks.
“We think that contaminated water management by your company has completely fallen apart,” Hiroshi Kishi, chairman of the Japan Fisheries Co-operative, told Tepco’s president, Naomi Hirose, during a meeting in Tokyo last week.
“This has dealt an immeasurable blow to the future of Japan’s fishing industry, and we are extremely concerned.”
It seems possible that Halliburton Energy Services didn’t what it’s three-dimensional computer simulations of what when wrong in the Macondo Well blow-out to get into the hands of federal prosecutors. The simulations were destroyed and the DOJ filed criminal charges against Halliburton for this destruction of evidence. Halliburton was subsequently allowed to settle the charges of destroying evidence with the DOJ, pleading to just one count. Sen. John McCain is among those who feel that justice was not being served here. The following excerpt is from E&E News. A link to the full article is found below as is a PDF copy of Sen. McCain’s letter.
Republican questions Halliburton’s Gulf spill settlement
Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, August 1, 2013
Arizona Sen. John McCain today expressed deep concerns about the Department of Justice’s recent settlement with Halliburton Energy Services Inc. over the destruction of evidence following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The Republican asked DOJ several questions about how the $200,000 settlement came about and whether it is sufficient given the nature of the allegations. [SNIP]
Halliburton admitted to one count of destroying evidence and agreed to pay the maximum statutory penalty of $200,000. Additionally, Halliburton faces three years of probation and has agreed to cooperate with DOJ’s ongoing investigation into the Gulf of Mexico explosion and spill that killed 11 rig workers.
The settlement stems from three-dimensional computer simulations that Halliburton ran after the blowout on the Macondo well. Engineers were trying to determine whether BP PLC’s decision to use fewer centralizers around the well’s casings than Halliburton had recommended may have caused the blowout. [SNIP]
“Why did DOJ settle this case for such a relatively small fine rather than choose to prosecute Halliburton to the full extent of its culpability in the Deepwater Horizon disaster?” McCain asked.
McCain also raised questions about Halliburton’s decision to contribute $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation separate from the settlement.
Read John McCain’s Letter Here: http://www.eenews.net/assets/2013/08/01/document_pm_01.pdf
by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
“divergent selection pressures on males and females are expected to produce consistent – and often substantial – psychological differences between the sexes. By the logic of sexual selection theory and parental investment theory, large sex differences are most likely to be found in traits and behaviors that ultimately relate to mating and parenting. More generally, sex differences are expected in those domains in which males and females have consistently faced different adaptive problems.”
America has a growing obesity epidemic. This we know for certain. We also know that obesity is far more prevalent among poor Americans and that more and more Americans are slipping into poverty. Real, inflation adjusted wages have been stagnant for over 30 years. Current wages are in decline and the number of people below the poverty line is near an all time high.
What is the link between poverty and obesity? It is a fact that the five states with the greatest obesity levels are also among the ten poorest states. They are also among the states with the lowest life expectancy. One theory as to why the poor are more likely to be obese is that they don’t have access to healthy foods in poor neighborhoods.
In April of this year the New York Times published an article highlighting two recent studies that looked at whether people in poor communities had access to stores and supermarkets that sold fresh, healthy foods. These two studies found that the poor have as much, or more access to stores selling healthy foods. One study found that poor neighborhoods have twice as many fast food restaurants and corner stores, but almost twice as many supermarkets as well. So the “food desert” theory of why poor American are more obese appears to be false.
A second theory on the connection between obesity and the poor is that they can’t afford to eat healthy. This is the “calories are cheap, nutrition is expensive” theory. Supporting this notion a recent American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study that found $1 could buy 1,200 calories of potato chips but just 250 calories of vegetables and 170 calories of fresh fruit. An excellent CNN article recently reported that:
“Ground beef that is 80/20 is fattier but cheaper than 90/10. Ground turkey breast is leaner than the other two but is usually the more expensive. And many of us can’t even begin to think about free-range chicken and organic produce — food without pesticides and antibiotics that’ll cost you a second mortgage in no time at all.”
And the cost of groceries is rising. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated the weekly grocery bill for a family of four was about at $134.50 in 2010 and $141.20 in 2011. An extra $7.00 per week is a lot for families living below the poverty line, especial when family incomes are in decline.
Other recent research also suggests a strong link between poverty, obesity and US food policy. While genetics may play a role in obesity, socioeconomic class may be a better predictor of obesity.
AcademicEarth.org has posted a brief video on their Website explaining this link that also relates it to current U.S. food policies. They report that Americans today eat 25% more calories than they did in the 1970’s (the same time period when hourly wages stopped rising with hourly productivity). The additional calorie intake is skewed towards lower income families. This important video federal food subsidies and other U.S. policies may be directly contributing to the current obesity crisis. Please view the video here: http://academicearth.org/electives/the-economic-cost-of-obesity/.
Created by AcademicEarth.org