American Elephants


Politics, School Standards, and the Climate Debate. by The Elephant's Child

The AP reports on a new study that says “Young people are not so ‘green’ after all.”The study amounts to comparing the current generation of young people — the Millennials — with previous generation going back about 40 years. The excerpted comments from professors who participated in the study, suggests that the professors are enthusiastic greens, and don’t quite understand why the kids are not.

Beth Christiansen who heads the environmental program at Adelphi University on Long Island said when she attended Rutgers in the 1980s, it was unusual to find a fellow student who had not hiked or spent time in the woods. “Now a lot of these students have very little experience with the unpaved world.”

Some of her students also volunteer with a group that cleans up trash in the bays that surround the island — one of many examples of young people who are taking environmental issues seriously.

At Babson College in Massachusetts, for instance, there is student housing called the “Green Tower,” where residents focus on conserving resources.  It is a growing housing trend on many college campuses.

At Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania students are running a biodiesel plant on campus and building “permaculture,” or indefinitely sustainable gardens in their back yards. They’re less likely to write a letter to their member of Congress or to try to change things on a global level, said Richard Niesenbaum, a biology professor at Muhlenberg. They also don’t like to label themselves as “environmentalists.”

By the time they get to  college, they have had global warming and environmentalism shoved down their throats for 12 years already. No wonder they aren’t so “green” after all.

Climate change is now the premier battle in our nations’ science education, and several national bodies are set to release a draft of new science standards that include detailed instruction on climate change. “The groups preparing the standards include the National Research Council which is part of the congressionally chartered National Academies. They are working from a document they drew up last year that says climate change is caused in part by manmade events, such as the burning of fossil fuels. The document says rising temperatures could have “large consequences” for the planet. Funny, I just heard a report on the radio that Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, scoffed at reports that the Obama administration was interested in national school standards.

So  you have science teacher Loris Chen, who said teachers should introduce students to “the consensus” on climate change. And a teacher at Corte Madera school in Portola Valley, California last year showed Al Gore’s global warming epic “An Inconvenient Truth” to her sixth grade students, and a father filed a formal complaint accusing Ms. Joi of “brainwashing” the students. The school will require parental permission before students see the movie in the future. It’s time to stop showing that piece of flawed propaganda. And there is  no consensus in science. And I don’t have much enthusiasm for national standards, simply because they’re so bad at it.



A New Poster from the RNC by The Elephant's Child


(click to enlarge)

The RNC came up with this satirical and very funny (and accurate) response to Obama’s new, professionally produced, campaign video. Don’t miss all the small type.



All Together Now, Everybody Attack Big Oil! by The Elephant's Child

President Obama has been attacking Big Oil for over three years. He says  he wants to end the subsidies for the “fuel of the past,” in favor of those new modern 21st century fuels — wind energy and solar energy. He always forgets that you can’t put either wind or sunshine in your gas tank. Fortunately, oil and gas will be the fuels of the future too. The dirty little secret that Obama doesn’t want you to k now is that Big Oil is subsidizing the government. 

In 2009, the federal Energy Information Administration reports that the Oil and Gas Industry paid some $35.7 billion in corporate income taxes in 2009, the latest year for which data are available. That’s about 10% of non-defense discretionary spending.  That figure does not include excise taxes, state taxes and rents, royalties, fees and bonus payments.  All together, the government collects $86 million from oil and gas every day — way more than any other business.

Obama likes to claim they are not paying their “fair share.” The Tax Foundation estimates that between 1981 and 2008 oil and gas companies sent more dollars to Washington and the state capitols than they earned in profit for shareholders.

Not enough, not enough. In Mr. Obama’s 2013 budget, he includes over a dozen tax increases that would raise the industry’s liability by $44 billion over the next decade.  The industry grew 4.5% in 2011, compared the national GDP growth of 1.7%. Maybe we could let Exxon manage the government.

And those subsidies that Obama rails at?  Those aren’t direct handouts like the wind and solar industries get, but deductions from taxes that cover the cost of doing business and earning income to tax in the first place. Most of them are available to other manufacturers. He wants to make oil and gas more expensive than his embarrassingly ineffective investments in 19th century technology. It makes no sense, of course. He claims he wants to lower gas prices, but his every policy choice leads to higher prices.  The Roberts electric car, built in 1896, gets 40 miles on a full electric charge, just like the Chevy Volt.



Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to Jurassic Park! by The Elephant's Child


Woolly Mammoth Recreation: Wikimedia Commons

Researchers from Russia and South Korea are planning to resurrect the Ice Age woolly mammoth.  The scientists signed a deal on Tuesday to share technology and research that could lead to the birth of a mammoth clone, gestated in a surrogate Indian elephant mother.

Mammoth remains were uncovered in thawed Siberian permafrost, and around the world, scientists have been trying to extract DNA from the remains.  Paleobiologists previously were able to reproduce mammoth blood protein, and Japanese researchers want to resurrect the mammoth within five years.

This new project will move forward if the Russian institution, the North-Eastern Federal University of the Sakha Republic can ship the mammoth remains to the Koreans.

The project would work like earlier cloning studies that successfully reproduced dogs, a cow, a cat, a pig, a wolf and coyotes. The nuclei of mammoth somatic cells would be implanted into the nuclei of donor elephant eggs, to produce elephant embryos with mammoth DNA.  The embryos would be implanted then in elephant wombs, where they would gestate for 22 months.

The earlier protein study showed that we can learn much by working with these extinct creatures — the mammoth blood was found to contain an anti-freeze component that no one would have guessed existed.

Woolly mammoths were not significantly larger than today’s African elephants, and males reached around 9 feet.  Unlike today’s elephants they had small ears, the largest found are only 12 inches long. The tusks were extremely long, up to 16 feet long, and markedly curved.  It’s not clear what the purpose was, they may have been used as shovels to clear snow from the ground and reach the vegetation underneath.

By 1929 the remains of thirty-four mammoths had been found with frozen soft tissues. Only four were relatively complete.  Large amounts of mammoth ivory have been found in Siberia.  Mammoth tusks have been items of trade for at least 2,000 years. They disappeared at the end of the Pleistocene —10,000 years ago, but an isolated population survived on Wrangell Island until roughly 1700 B.C. Woolly mammoths appear in cave art in Dordogne, France. Mammoth specimens have been found in North Carolina and Kentucky.

I suspect that anyone who saw Jurassic Park would find the cloning effort  a little uncomfortable at best.




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