Surferbird News-Links, 53rd Edition

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Photos of boys being boys, seed librarians, bioluminescent plankton, a fluorescent tree frog, saving the coral reefs, history of Sahara desertification and more—these are some of the stories in today's Surferbird News-Links.

News from my wood

I took some time off last week to spend time with friends and family but will begin posting regularly on Tuesdays and Fridays. This is an experiment, though, so I hope you don't hold me to this too closely. I have three freelance proposals waiting in the wings. If even one is accepted, we'll see how long this posting schedule lasts!

One more note: Two important terms used in this post, bioluminescence and fluorescence, have different meanings. For those of you interested in learning more, I found an excellent description, here(bentmedia.me).

Views

Photos of boys being boys (qz.com)

These images run counter to our culture's dominant view on the nature of boys and the kinds of activities they enjoy. Beautiful, wonderful boys.

News-Links

Environment

Did humans contribute to Sahara desertification? (theconversation.com)

According to the author, changes in Earth's orbit combined with humans' practice of burning landscapes might have contributed to parts of the Sahara rapidly becoming drier. It's important to note that unlike wild animals, domesticated animals often lose their sense of fear and graze in open areas. This can have a profound effect on the ecology of a place—permanently altering the landscape.

Climate change

We need to slow planet warming in order to save the coral reefs. (nytimes.com)

Coral reefs are dying because of climate change, according the author of this New York Times opinion piece. Yet, they "support a quarter of all marine life and provide protein for millions of people." They're also beautiful. But if we intend to save them, we'll have to reduce planet warming. Scientists weren't expecting to see such extensive damage to the Great Barrier Reef until close to 2050.

Blue bioluminescent plankton off the coast of Tasmania (theguardian.com)

Did you see this video last week? Plankton off the coast of Tasmania emit blue light as a self-defense mechanism. But according to Anthony Richardson from Australia's national science agency, the downside to this bioluminescent performance is that planet warming is bringing warmer waters into the area. This allows the plankton to survive in places they usually aren't found, which could affect local food webs.

Climate change—an optimistic view for 2017 (theguardian.com)

A remarkable piece on why there's still hope for the climate—but it's cautiously optimistic, no doubt. I appreciate how the author, Adam Levy, reminds us of the downturns but follows up by recounting the progress of individual nations and governments, including California.

Food and farming

Seed librarians help preserve our food security as our planet warms. (psmag.com)

Locally adapted seeds often perform better than generic ones, which are used in a wider range of environments. But seed diversity and farmers' ability to obtain genetic variations continue to decrease. In response to this challenge, farmers and communities across the country are sharing and preserving seeds to create more food crop diversity and to better prepare for climatic changes ahead.

Health

Budget cuts will affect public health in addition to climate change research. (theatlantic.com)

There's more at stake to budget cuts than climate change. For example, would scientists be able to quickly respond to infectious disease emergencies such as Zika and Ebola? Another point to consider is that if the budget passes, would the loss of funding flexibility prevent researchers from tapping into a wider range of financial sources?

Yoga can transform the physical into thought, behavior and relationship changes. (qz.com)

Far more than a workout, yoga has a philosophical component that can't be distilled into one idea. However, the author describes two of the primary philosophies behind yoga practice—purusha and tantric philosophy. This is an excellent piece that leaves me wanting to know more.

Science and technology

Discovery of first fluorescent amphibian (qz.com)

Even when this South American polka-dot tree frog isn't flashing its green fluorescent skin, it still looks amazing in pale gold with cranberry spots. This is the first known amphibian to display fluorescence. There's a catch, though: You have to shine an ultraviolet flashlight on the frog to see the show. Will herpetologists discover more of these glowing wonders? Keep that UV flashlight handy!

Perspectives

A reminder, courtesy of Seth Godin (sethgodin.typepad.com)

Many people, today, are too young to remember how close we came to nuclear war. I'll be honest: I'm probably not going to watch the five hour Dan Carlin podcast that Seth Godin recommends. But Seth's blog post gets the point across nicely. Maybe some of you have already seen the series or will watch it at some point in the future.

Laura