Category Archives: CONSCIOUSNESS

Raindrop Tracker Point to Better Environmental Awareness

Go with the flow : Nature : Nature Publishing Group.

It might seem impossible to get lost in the modern world with its ubiquity of digital maps, but there is more than one way to be lost. Truly knowing where you are goes beyond pinpointing your position. It means knowing where your water comes from and where it goes, where your electricity is generated and where your rubbish ends up. It means being aware of what plants and animals live nearby and what kind of soil lies beneath your feet.

For example, an undergraduate at a rainy Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, can use his or her smartphone to instantly calculate a route to the nearest Starbucks coffee shop. But chances are that he or she remains ignorant of how the rain flows through the city on its way to the White River, the Mississippi and, finally, the Gulf of Mexico.

Enter Raindrop, a phone application that combines sewer and watercourse maps with the software that makes getting a caffeine fix so easy. Tap the map and watch the path of a single raindrop flow from your location through streams, culverts and pipes into the river. The app, due to launch next month, was funded by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and put together by a team led by ecologist Timothy Carter at Butler. It is currently limited to Indianapolis, but similar efforts could be designed for other cities.

A better appreciation of watercourses and other hidden networks can only strengthen human connections to ecosystems, biogeochemical cycles and resource flows, and will arguably make people more likely to support science and environmental causes. Making available the data that science and society produce in these innovative ways can help people to find themselves — even if they had no idea that they were lost.

destruction of the human race one of several potential outcomes of contact with aliens

Research explores potential outcomes of contact with aliens | Reuters.

(Reuters) – Contact with extraterrestrials could be beneficial or might destroy the human race, according to an analysis of possible outcomes of an alien encounter that even one author of the study described as unlikely.

The scenarios are contained in a paper written by a trio of scientists dated in April and published in the journal Acta Astronautica that won media attention this week following an article published in a British newspaper.

The collection of possible outcomes, should earthlings meet beings from elsewhere, ranges from beneficial to harmful, according to the paper by Seth Baum, a doctoral candidate, and Jacob Haqq-Misra and Shawn Domagal-Goldman, both postdoctoral scholars.

Contact with extraterrestrials might lead to a discussion of math and science or helpful collaboration on solving serious issues like world hunger or poverty, the paper said.

In some of the more dire situations, the scientists said aliens could intentionally plan to eat or enslave people on earth.

Another possibility would be for extraterrestrials to destroy life on earth if they detected civilization was expanding too rapidly and could harm others. Evidence of humans destroying the environment could prompt such an attack.

Extraterrestrials could also harm earth through disease or by using technology, knowingly or unintentionally, they said.

The journal that published the study, Acta Astronautica, publishes articles on developments in space research. Baum is doing doctoral work at Pennsylvania State University, where Haqq-Misra is a post-doctoral research associate.

The other author, Domagal-Goldman, said in a blog post on Friday that while he believed contact with alien civilization was unlikely, researching the possibility was fun.

While there is still no detected form of extraterrestrial intelligence, the researchers said their review provided the groundwork for a more comprehensive plan to respond to alien contact should it ever occur.

(Reporting by Lauren Keiper, editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Cynthia Johnston)

Is the United States in Danger of Collapse?

Is the United States in Danger of Collapse? | Stephen M. Walt.

Earlier this summer I mentioned that I was reading Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, and I promised to sum up the insights that I had gleaned from it. The book is well-worth reading — if not quite on a par with his earlier Guns, Germs, and Steel — and you’ll learn an enormous amount about a diverse set of past societies and the range of scientific knowledge (geology, botany, forensic archaeology, etc.) that is enabling us to understand why they prospered and/or declined.

The core of the book is a series of detailed case studies of societies that collapsed and disappeared because they were unable to adapt to demanding and/or deteriorating environmental, economic, or political conditions. He examines the fate of the Easter Islanders, the Mayans, the Anasazi of the Pacific Southwest, the Norse colonies in Western Greenland (among others), and contrasts them with other societies (e.g., the New Guinea highlanders) who managed to develop enduring modes of life in demanding circumstances. He also considers modern phenomenon such as the Rwandan genocide and China and Australia’s environmental problems in light of these earlier examples.

I read the book because I am working on a project exploring why states (and groups and individuals) often find it difficult to “cut their losses” and abandon policies that are clearly not working. This topic is a subset of the larger (and to me, endlessly fascinating) question of why smart and well-educated people can nonetheless make disastrous (and with hindsight, obviously boneheaded) decisions. Diamond’s work is also potentially relevant to the perennial debate on American decline: Is it occurring, is it inevitable, and how should we respond?

So what lessons does Diamond draw from his case studies, and what insights might we glean for the conduct of foreign policy? Here are a few thoughts that occurred to me as I finished the book.

First, he argues that sometimes societies fail to anticipate an emerging problem because they lack adequate knowledge or prior experience with the phenomenon at hand. Primitive societies may not have recognized the danger of soil depletion, for example, because they lacked an adequate understanding of basic soil chemistry. A society may also fail to spot trouble if the main problem it is facing recurs only infrequently, because the knowledge of how to detect or deal with the problem may have been forgotten. As he emphasizes, this is especially problematic for primitive societies that lack written records, but historical amnesia can also occur even in highly literate societies like our own.

By analogy, one could argue that some recent failures in U.S. foreign policy were of this sort. Hardly anybody anticipated that U.S. support for the anti-Soviet mujaheddin in Afghanistan would eventually lead to the formation of virulent anti-American terrorist groups, in part because the U.S. leaders didn’t know very much about that part of the world and because public discourse about U.S. policy in the Middle East is filled with gaping holes. Similarly, the people who led us into Iraq in 2003 were remarkably ignorant about the history and basic character of Iraqi society (as well as the actual nature of Saddam’s regime). To make matters worse, the U.S. military had forgotten many of the lessons of Vietnam and had to try to relearn them all over again, with only partial success.

Second, societies may fail to detect a growing problem if their leaders are too far removed from the source of the trouble. Diamond refers to this as the problem of “distant managers,” and it may explain why U.S. policymakers often make decisions that seem foolish in hindsight. As I’ve noted here before, one problem facing U.S. foreign policymakers is the sheer number and scope of the problems they are trying to address, which inevitably forces them to rely on reports from distant subordinates and to address issues that they cannot be expected to understand very well. Barack Obama doesn’t get to spend the next few years learning Pashto and immersing himself in the details of Afghan history and culture; instead, he has to make decisions based on what he is being told by people on the ground (who may or may not know more than he does). Unfortunately, the latter have obvious reasons to tell an upbeat story, if only to make their own efforts look good. If things are going badly, therefore, the people at the top back in Washington may be the last to know.

 

Third, serious problems may go undetected when a long-term negative trend is masked by large short-term fluctuations. Climate change is the classic illustration here: there are lots of short-term fluctuations in atmospheric temperature (daily, seasonally, annually and over eons), which allows climate change skeptics to seize upon any unusual cold snap as “evidence” that greenhouse gases are of no concern.

Similarly, it’s easy to find short-term signs of American primacy that may be masking adverse long-term trends. Optimists can point to U.S. military predominance and the fact that the American economy is still the world’s largest, or to the number of patents and Nobel Prizes that U.S. scientists continue to win. But just as the British Empire reached its greatest territorial expanse after World War I (when its actual power was decidedly on the wane), these positive features may be largely a product of past investments (and good fortune) and focusing on them could lead us to miss the eroding foundations of American power.

A fourth source of foolish decisions is the well-known tendency for individuals to act in ways that are in their own selfish interest but not in the interest of the society as a whole. The “tragedy of the commons” is a classic illustration of this problem, but one sees the same basic dynamic whenever a narrow interest group’s preferences are allowed to trump the broader national interest. Tariffs to protect particular industries or foreign policies designed to appease a particular domestic constituency are obvious cases in point.

Ironically, these problems may be especially acute in today’s market-oriented democracies. We like to think that open societies foster a well-functioning “marketplace of ideas,” and that the clash of different views will weed out foolish notions and ensure that problems get identified and addressed in a timely fashion. Sometimes that’s probably true, but when well-funded special interests can readily pollute the national mind, intellectual market failure is the more likely result. After all, it is often easier and cheaper to invent self-serving lies and distortions than it is to ferret out the truth, and there are plenty of people (and organizations) for whom truth-telling is anathema and self-serving political propaganda is the norm. When professional falsifiers are more numerous, better-funded, and louder than truth-tellers, society will get dumber over time and will end up repeating the same blunders.

Fifth, even when a state or society recognizes that it is in trouble, Diamond identifies a number of pathologies that make it harder for them to adapt and survive. Political divisions may make it impossible to take timely action even when everyone realizes that something ought to be done (think gridlock in Congress), and key leaders may be prone to either “groupthink” or various forms of psychological denial. And the bad news here is that no one has ever devised an effective and universally reliable antidote to these problems.

Moreover, if a group’s identity is based on certain cherished values or beliefs, it may be hard to abandon them even when survival is at stake. Diamond suggests that the Norse colonies in Greenland may have disappeared because the Norse were unwilling to abandon certain traditional practices and imitate the local Inuits (e.g., by adopting seal hunting via kayaks), and it is easy to think of contemporary analogues to this sort of cultural rigidity. Military organizations often find it hard to abandon familiar doctrines and procedures, and states that are strongly committed to particular territorial objectives often find it nearly impossible to rethink these commitments. Look how long it took the French to leave Algeria, or consider the attachment to Kosovo that is central to Serbian nationalist thinking, and how it led them into a costly (and probably unnecessary) war in 1999.

To sum up (in Diamond’s words):

Human societies and smaller groups make disastrous decisions for a whole sequence of reasons: failure to anticipate a problem, failure to perceive it once it has arisen, failure to attempt to solve it after it has been perceived, and failure to succeed in attempts to solve it.”

That last point is worth highlighting too. Even when states do figure out that they’re in trouble and get serious about trying to address the problem, they may still fail because a ready and affordable fix is not available. Given their remarkably fortunate history, Americans tend to think that any problem can be fixed if we just try hard enough. That was never true in the past and it isn’t true today, and the real challenge remains learning how to distinguish between those situations where extra effort is likely to pay off and those where cutting one’s losses makes a lot more sense.

Minnesota farmer battles Gulf 'dead zone'

Minnesota farmer battles Gulf ‘dead zone’ – CNN.com.

Really encouraging story about a farmer who converted to a more sustainable methodology….

Windom, Minnesota (CNN) — Within moments of meeting Tony Thompson, you can tell he sees the world from a different tilt.

His frayed shirt pocket is stuffed so full of notes that it’s ripping at the seams. Hairy eyebrows spring off his face like grasshopper antennae. There’s a purple prairie clover stuck in the dash of his van, a bird book below the radio.

He says bizarre, eco-minded things like “I want to be a chloroplast.”

So maybe it should come as no surprise that this wild-haired, icy-eyed farmer in southwest Minnesota is among the first people at this latitude to make an important intellectual leap:

He sees people who live and work near the Gulf of Mexico as his neighbors — even though they’re 1,200 miles away.

Further, he’s changing the way he farms in order to protect them.

Scientists have recorded one of the largest “dead zones” in the Gulf’s history this year. This oxygen-sapped area — currently about the size of New Jersey — is caused in large part by fertilizer that funnels into the ocean from Midwestern farms, since more than 40 percent of the land in the United States drains into the Gulf.

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Interactive: What creates the ‘dead zone’?//

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The fertilizer kicks off a chain reaction of biological processes that, in the end, drains the water of oxygen and kills fish, shrimp and other marine creatures that can’t swim away.

This year, the BP oil spill may make matters worse. The coast is already strapped for cash, and some scientists fear cumulative effects of the environmental stress.

Thompson, 54, whose family built a house on this farmland in 1878, doesn’t want to contribute to any of this.

“I’d much rather eat wild Gulf shrimp than farmed shrimp, and I know that my efforts may seem insignificant, but I think we can have sustainable fishing in the Gulf and corn production in the Mississippi [River] watershed,” he said.

“I think we should all be saying, ‘We must have both.’ ”

But, as he well knows, cleaning up the Gulf from the Midwest will require continental changes.

Suicidal shrimp

As summer approaches and the Louisiana air gets hot and wet, Dean Blanchard says, he can tell that the dead zone is forming because shrimp leap onto the beach.

“They pretty much commit suicide,” he says.

Blanchard, who owns a large-scale seafood wholesaling business in Grand Isle, Louisiana, says he never saw that phenomenon until six or seven years ago.

Scientists first recorded an oxygen-dead zone in the Gulf in 1972. Since then, the size of this underwater coffin has fluctuated, but it is growing. In 2009, the dead zone smothered an area of about 3,000 square miles. This year, it is more than twice as big — and is the fifth largest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which monitors the area.

The longer the phenomenon persists, the weaker the Gulf ecosystem becomes, said Rob Magnien, director of the Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research at NOAA.

“If the area grows large enough, the consequence is, at some point, we’ll reach a tipping point where some of our major commercial and recreational species [of fish, shrimp and oysters] would be severely affected,” he said.

No one knows for sure when the Gulf will cross that threshold, but the wait may not be long, Magnien said. Early testing indicates that the ocean ecosystem is already under intense stress: It takes less fertilizer pollution today, for example, to produce a large dead zone in the Gulf than it did several years ago.

That’s a sign that the dead zone will continue to grow unless fertilizer levels are cut drastically.

In the meantime, people in the Gulf seafood industry, like Blanchard, say they have to work around the dead zone each summer. Blanchard says he loses up to $250,000 of his $35 million total revenue per year because of the phenomenon.

And shrimpers may not be able to avoid the zone forever.

“They avoid the dead zone areas and are able to catch shrimp in other areas, but at some point, the zone is going to grow to a size where they can’t reach the shrimp anymore or they simply have insufficient habitat to maintain a robust population,” Magnien said.

Blanchard says the Gulf has become “the cesspool of the nation” because “everything comes down to us.”

“If you s— in the river, then you s— down here,” he said. “They send us all the garbage; it comes down the river to us.”

Neighbors by water

Thompson, the Minnesota farmer, has never been to Louisiana.

And Blanchard, the Louisiana seafood businessman, has never been to Minnesota. “It’s too cold up there,” he said.

But their paths crossed last summer, when Thompson was organizing a community event at his 3,000-acre property, Willow Lake Farm.

He wanted his Minnesota neighbors to meet a person who was affected by their fertilizer use and water management.

“We’re all in this together,” he said.

He also wanted to eat some delicious Louisiana shrimp. So, out of the blue, he called Blanchard and invited him to visit.

Blanchard didn’t attend. But he did send his shrimp north for the event, and Thompson used that food as an entree into talk about the dead zone.

Blanchard is not angry at farmers in the Midwest, he said. But he is furious about the situation.

“I’m mad at the government, that they don’t make them use different kinds of [chemicals on their farms]. Somebody’s got to be smart enough in this country to invent something that can do the job they need up there — and not ruin the Gulf,” he said.

“The government ought to have a team of scientists working on that. How bad are they going to let it get before somebody stops it?”

The government has started to look for solutions but hasn’t made a notable dent in the problem.

The entire Mississippi River watershed must reduce its output of two key fertilizer pollutants — nitrogen and phosphorus — by 45 percent to get the dead zone down to a manageable size, says a 2008 report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

If those cuts happened, the dead zone still would be nearly twice the size of Rhode Island.

A new way of farming

Thompson was driving a tractor across his parents’ farm in 1989 when he cracked.

Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was the deafening roar of the engine.

Mostly it was because he felt the way he was farming — tilling over the soil — was destroying the environment.

“I just hated it,” he said. “It seemed impossibly destructive.”

That night, he scratched this entry in his personal journal: “Never grow up to be a farmer.”

But time passed. And Thompson realized that it was just this method of farming that he hated. His intense frustration helped mold his view that the land, water and air are inextricably tied and that the actions of one farmer can be felt thousands of miles away.

He vowed to become a different kind of farmer.

With the help of an environmentally minded neighbor and his brother, Thompson etched out his vision on a large sheet of butcher paper, which he spread out on a kitchen table.

He didn’t want to till the land anymore, which he saw as a contributor to erosion and phosphorus runoff. He would apply “the softest touch on the land” possible, he said.

After struggling to explain this idea to bankers, Thompson finally got a loan to fund his vision. He put it into practice first on a small section of the family property, which he leased from his dad.

The changes worked. Yields went up. And, in Thompson’s view, the local environment became healthier, too. Missing critters like the meadow jumping mouse returned to the farm. The water became clearer. All of this eased his conscience.

He started to love the farm again.

“Here, I know all of my neighbors,” he said. “This is where I make my living. This is where my ancestors made their living. I’m not interested in fouling my nest.”

‘A long way away’

For many, fouling the Gulf’s nest is another story.

It’s relatively easy to convince farmers to adopt environmentally friendly practices if they can see the effects nearby, said Gary Sands, an associate professor of bioproducts and biosystems engineering at the University of Minnesota, who teaches farmers about the environment.

But it’s hard to sell changes that deal with the Gulf’s dead zone.

“They agree there is a problem, but they’re just so separate — so far away — from what’s going on in the Gulf,” he said of the farmers.

Scientists largely have figured out what farmers need to do to lessen their impact on the dead zone, said David Mulla, a founding fellow and soil scientist at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.

To be effective in tackling the Gulf’s problems, however, Mulla said, the new techniques have to be applied across the entire Midwest.

Right now, however, only voluntary pilot projects exist. And at best, with widespread adoption of these techniques, he said, the U.S. would reach its targets for shrinking the dead zone in 25 years.

Still, Mulla said, the efforts of one can make a difference.

He’s seen that happen before.

When the state started pushing farmers to leave some of their land wild along the banks of streams to act as a buffer, no one seemed interested in taking valuable land out of production.

Then one farmer broke.

“Eventually, we got one farmer who agreed to do it, and — [snap] — just like that, everyone followed.”

Farm filter

Walk to the bottom of a field of alfalfa on Thompson’s farm, and you can see the start of Mulla’s one-farmer theory in action.

The green field, bursting with purple flowers this time of year, slopes toward a small body of water called Fish Lake, where Thompson grew up swimming and where he can’t help but snorkel from time to time, he says.

He planted alfalfa here specifically to buffer that lake from nutrients. Alfalfa is a “very greedy plant,” he says, so it sucks up most of the water and fertilizer before it can get away.

But he’s going further than that.

Just before the field gives way to a thatch of oak trees and then the water, a small metal box is stuck in the ground.

It’s not much to look at, but that box — and another like it — is the visible component of an underground “bioreactor.” It eats nitrates out of the water before they hit the lake.

Water is piped through a subterranean block of woodchips that’s roughly the size of a blue whale. This slows the water down long enough for bacteria to start a process called nitrification, in which liquid nitrates from the fertilized water turn to harmless gas.

From there, the water trickles into Fish Lake and the Watonwan, Minnesota and Mississippi rivers before spilling into the salty Gulf.

On that journey, it slithers past Minneapolis, Minnesota; St. Louis, Missouri; Memphis, Tennessee; and finally New Orleans, Louisiana. You might think that, on such a long and winding journey, pollutants would somehow make their way out of the river, but scientists say that when liquid nitrates jump onto this one-way conveyor belt, they don’t look back until they’ve made it all the way to the ocean.

Thompson installed the woodchip bioreactor two years ago at a cost of $6,600, and most of that was paid through a university grant, he said. Another nitrogen-reduction project on a different field cost him $70,000. He paid that sum, he said, because that groundwater control system stands to increase his farm’s productivity, too.

Both of those systems are rather effective, Mulla said. The drainage system removes up to half of the ocean-harming nutrients; his bioreactor is capable of pulling 50 to 80 percent all of the nitrates out of the water under optimal conditions, said Sands, also from the University of Minnesota.

Thompson also says he monitors his fertilizer applications down “to the gnat’s eyelash” in order to reduce the amount of nitrate that enters the watershed.

“We don’t want to waste any nitrogen,” he said.

Thompson says it’s his responsibility to “send the best water possible downstream.” He doesn’t have the money to do everything he would like. But he’s optimistic about the situation improving in the long term.

“My job is to be a farmer, and I’m very committed to being the best farmer I can be,” he said. “I know to be a farmer I’m going to make a mess, and there are going to be mistakes, but my job is just to do a better job than I did last year.”

He hopes the idea spreads, one farmer at a time.

Stop wasting food, save the world's energy

Stop wasting food, save the world’s energy – opinion – 18 August 2010 – New Scientist.

The scandal of food waste is even worse when you consider how much energy is being thrown away, say Sheril Kirshenbaum and Michael Webber

IT IS no secret that meeting the world’s growing energy demands will be difficult. So far, most of the focus has been on finding oil in areas that are ever more difficult to access – think BP’s Deepwater Horizon well – bringing new fossil fuels such as tar sands online and increasing energy efficiency.

Yet we have been overlooking an easier way. We could save an enormous amount of energy by tackling the huge problem of food waste. Doing so is likely to be quicker than many of the other options on the table, while also saving money and reducing emissions.

The energy footprint of food is enormous. Consider the US, where just 5 per cent of the global population consumes one-fifth of the world’s energy. Around 15 per cent of the energy used in the US is swallowed up by food production and distribution. Most of that comes from farming with mechanised equipment, fertilisers and pesticides, irrigation and so on. Then there’s the energy cost of sorting, processing and packaging.

On top of that, each item of food on an American plate has made an average trip of over 2400 kilometres by boat, plane, train or automobile. Then there’s unloading, stocking grocery stores and meal preparation. By the time all of these steps are accounted for, food takes a significant bite out of the US’s total annual energy budget of about 100 million terajoules.

We have to eat, of course, but what about the food that we produce but do not eat?

Between one-quarter and one-third of the food produced in the US gets wasted, for a variety of reasons. A great deal spoils or is discarded before even reaching consumers, on farms, in fisheries and during processing. Buyers often reject perfectly edible produce because of minor blemishes. Food gets tossed in the trash in the home just because we bought or served too much, or let food spoil. Over a year, the average American family of four spends almost $600 on food that they do not eat.

Between one-quarter and one-third of all the food produced in the US gets wasted

Whatever the reason, food waste has a large cumulative impact. A recent analysis by one of us (Michael Webber) and Amanda Cuéllar at the University of Texas at Austin found that close to 2.2 million terajoules embedded in food waste was discarded in the US in 2007 – the energy equivalent of about 350 million barrels of oil (Environmental Science & Technology, DOI: 10.1021/es100310d).

This means that at least 2 per cent of the total US energy budget is literally thrown in the trash. For comparison, 350 million barrels of oil is nearly double Switzerland’s total annual energy consumption. Only a small fraction of what is wasted is ever recovered.

Global energy consumption is projected to increase by close to 50 per cent between 2006 and 2030. That makes reducing our dependency on fossil fuels even more challenging.

Tackling food waste should be added to the toolbox of policy options because its relative impact is on the same scale as more popular measures such as biofuel production and offshore drilling. Although we will never eliminate food waste completely, we can assuredly create the means to discard less by coming up with the right incentives for producers and consumers.

The first step involves identifying efficiency savings along the production chain, which might include improved farming practices or more funding for agricultural research. We already have the means to create varieties of vegetables and fruit that spoil more slowly than before, but the approach involves genetic engineering and there is consumer resistance, so public acceptance of new technologies should be encouraged.

Companies can do their bit, too. Hotels are already saving significantly on water and energy by encouraging their guests to use towels more than once. In the same manner, restaurants might reduce food waste by reducing their often profligate portion sizes.

Supermarkets could benefit by selling perfectly edible fruits and vegetables that are currently discarded because of blemishes. Such measures would not only reduce food waste but also save companies money and demonstrate that they are environmentally conscious, which in turn would enhance their reputation and increase their profits.

However, businesses function based on the demands of their customers, so ultimately we need to change people’s actions. This will be tricky.

Foremost, the public needs to be better educated about proper storage of foods to keep them edible for longer. Shoppers could be supplied with easy-to-digest, accurate information about the proper shelf life of products, so that they are able to plan meals more carefully and end up with less spoilt food at the end of the week.

Another problem is “use by” dates, which are extremely conservative and can encourage consumers to throw away perfectly edible food. Similarly, “sell by” dates are usually meant as guidelines for retailers to ensure they do not keep stock too long, not as guidance to consumers about when the food will spoil. We need to improve the way we label foods.

Initiatives targeted at consumers could also have ripple-out effects: not only will educating people about food waste reduce pressure on their wallets, it would also lead to fewer trips to the store, saving on gasoline and reducing carbon emissions. Most important, it would help to promote a culture that places a higher value on food, energy, and the way their complex relationship affects us all.

Sheril R. Kirshenbaum is a research associate at the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy (CIEEP) at the University of Texas at Austin and co-author of Unscientific America: How scientific illiteracy threatens our future (with Chris Mooney).

Michael E. Webber is associate director of CIEEP