Thursday, June 27, 2013

Science which was once Curiosity & Discovery driven, now replaced by Corporate Science - So What Happened ?


(AP Photo/Jaime Henry-White)
Back in the 1960s with the development and movement of everything Ecology, it seemed our natural world with it's various ecosystems were more in trouble than ever. Most kids my age then were so in tuned with caring and wanting to change things for the better out in Nature. So what ever happened to outdoor field activities which encouraged observation of everything ecology ? I think I know what the problem could be, take a look here above left in the photo. Kids are more and more disconnected with the reality of the outdoor Natural World now than ever before. They have no clue what the Natural World is all about and yet, we humans are so tied to it and dependent upon it for life. And without life, even electronics which can be valuable tools in their proper place would have no meaning. I remember the old days when kids were at summer Nature Camps, Indian Guides, Cub Scouts, Brownies, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Explorer Scouts along with all manner of private summer camps, etc. Of course,  I do understand that many of these groups are made fun of now days and put down for several ideological reasons, but I'm mostly focusing  specifically here on the aspect of their ability to get kids to appreciate and respect Nature irrespective of ideological concerns today that seem to be the driver behind much of this world's hatred of others. Nature is something almost totally missing from the life of today's child, with the exception perhaps of Rural kids. Not just kids, but even adults are more out of touch with the reality of the Natural World around them than ever before. Here is a short few paragraphs from that article about the new modern day Summer Camps.
"The 12-year-old from Florida is spending two weeks at a summer camp in a program that teaches programming skills to young people."
Of course such a youth camp seems to be beneficial and of course may even be productive as far as developing skills early in life which will enhance further learning ability. But then there was the real motive further down the article which was given as to future career moves on the part of these youths who were given this head start. Our modern day world is obsessed with getting ahead and climbing the corporate ladder. Acquiring many material possessions are  advertised as the key to happiness in life. But such has not been the case and such goals, which are propagated by this push for consumerism, have required a fair amount of raping the Earth for it's natural resources. Indeed, most of our globe's National economies are based on this industrial worldview of dominating markets through competition. But this philosophy is also killing our planet. Many of the promised job market promoted in the article will not even be there for the majority when they graduate. 
"There will be 1.4 million computing jobs by 2020 but only 400,000 computer science students by that time, according to Code.org, a nonprofit with a list of who's who in the tech world on its advisory board including Twitter creator Jack Dorsey and Dropbox CEO Drew Houston."
"And the jobs pay well. The median annual wage for a computer programmer, for instance, was $71,380 in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, jobs for network and computer systems administrators are growing at double the national average, with a median annual salary of $69,160." 
(Source: Yahoo News)
"Coding Camps for Kids rise in Popularity"
This is not just a kids only issue. The countless modern day social media outlets which compete for the average adult's online obsession and multiple companies who provide electronic devises which have made addicting people to a virtual world where advertisers of consumer goods can be exploited on a constant basis is also another issue.


http://observationandecology.com 
I don't really want to spend any time debating that article from Yahoo and/or the adult addiction issues, other than kids and adults need to get off their backsides more and understand what Nature is all about and how things in the natural world actually work-function and how we can and must maintain all those Natural mechanisms. That article in Yahoo actually reminded me of something else I saved awhile back, but had forgotten about until now. There was an article in the University of Arizona News which brought to the surface something that has truly been really missing with many Scientists and other Professional Researchers themselves who rely too heavily on Electronics and the Lab in their work assignments. They rarely venture out into the field anymore, with the exception of a few notable field trip adventures. I have to assume that their thinking is that everything is now archived on the Internet and that all experiments and observation can be done from a Lab now. See what electronics does. It mentally handicaps and shackles one to a life of indoor prison. The article from the University of Arizona was called:
 "Back to the Future: A New Science for a Changing Planet"

Photo: R. Anderson

"Science is passed on through
Storytelling"
- Rafe Sagarin
This article had some great quotes in it which illustrated what's wrong with the way modern science conducts research and the laziness with which is evident by many of it's failed programs for carrying out most any kind of policy for rebuilding ecosystems and replicating Nature as far as technological innovation through biomimicry. Everyone should really read this article from the link I've provided above. But there are some relevant learning quotes which illustrate the importance of physically getting your back side out in Nature and finding out the truth of a matter for yourself as opposed to taking on faith what someone claiming to be Authority thinks, wrote or read about. There is one important subtitle in the article which talks about the Scientific Method and why it fails today. I'll quote this section in it's entirety and than comment on it afterwards.
When Existing Scientific Methods Fall Short
"The scientific method as it is usually taught to college students works by formulating a hypothesis, then devising an experiment to test that  hypothesis, do the experiment and either reject, accept or modify the hypothesis depending on the outcome. But this approach, the authors  say, falls short when tasked with untangling the myriad of factors that influence global process such as climate change or changes affecting  entire ecosystems."
 “You have to break your experiment down into very small pieces to  make sure there aren't any confounding factors,” Sagarin said. “You  have to focus on a very small number of variables to obtain statistically valid results, but of course climate change and other big environmental  changes involve huge numbers of variables.”
In other cases, it may be unethical to test a hypothesis by performing  experiments, for example when studying how changing temperatures  shift the geographical distribution of organisms.“It would not be ethically acceptable to do the experiment you want to do to test this, which is transplanting species outside of their range and then see if  they survive.”
 In contrast, simply going out into nature and observing might lead to unexpected and valuable discoveries, as Sagarin learned during his time as an undergraduate student at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station at Monterey Bay, Calif. In his effort to learn what animals inhabited the tide pools just outside the institute, he had to dig deep into the library and dust off a scientific publication from the 1930s.
“All I did for my undergraduate thesis was repeat exactly what this guy in the 1930s had done – looking at every square yard along a transect line traversing the shoreline, counting the animals and comparing that to what he had found 60 years earlier.”
His observations, belittled by his fellow students as antiquated  biological “stamp-collecting,” turned out to have a profound impact." 
 (Injecting my personal opinion: this is also very illustrative, not only of the youth immature behavior which would be expected, but often in our modern times this same exact type of conduct is exhibited by supposedly Adult Academics)  
 “We found that the numbers and varieties of species had completely  changed,” Sagarin said, “and when compared to long-time records of  water temperatures, our findings were consistent with the idea that the  warming climate was affecting these populations. It was one of the first studies showing that climate-related change in animal communities was something that is happening right now, not something out of a computer model that may or may not happen in the future.”
The beauty of looking at archived references is that quite often the present system lacks what evidence that there once was in the way the Natural World once operated, no matter how detailed, specific or what subject you may be researching. Presently, I'm reading once again both dairies and/or journals of Juan Baustista de Anza and two of those of his traveling companions on his trek from Yuma to San Jacinto Valley. Many of the things he wrote about as far as geographical regions and observable plant communities which existed back then were right on accurate, even though many of those features today are either completely gone or so altered as to be completely changed. But by a comparison I did when I first read these dairies, everything was pretty much the way he said it was as far as the ecological bio-diverse richness of these areas. Admittedly, when I first moved to Anza Valley and read a Chamber of Commerce Brochure of the area and quotes of Juan Bautista de Anza describing the area as a lush paradise, I originally considered it a joke or an economic PR campaign of the local business enterprise community. But I was dead wrong. Though the region has gone down hill ever since like so many other areas of the globe, what it once was could be rebuilt, if only studied and replicated. I then  compared his Diary record to the accounts told to me when I did interviews with people in their 80s & 90s back in 1982 up in Anza California who came from families that were the original homesteaders of the area in the late 1800s and this was further clarified, confirmed and authenticated when I actually went out into the field and found some remnants of various plant indicators which told of a far different climate environment than we have at present. Or perhaps I should say at least at that time period back then of 1982. Since then things have further deteriorated and the area's forest timber line has further retreated up higher elevation slopes. 

Fortunately there are others who are Field Workers so to speak, like the Chaparral Biologist Richard Halsey, his staff and followers who see for themselves how Nature actually works through hiking , exploring and hands on rebuilding techniques in Habitat Restoration Projects. Such a hands on education almost becomes burned into a person's very own DNA by means of recorded information inside brain cells. Want to learn about something and retain that information ? Then get off your back sides and get physically out in the field and observe things. Don't take my word or Richard Halsey's, Bert Wilson's, Roger Klemm's,or Rafe Sagarin's word for it, get out there and see things for yourself. Below is a photo illustration of the Chaparral Institute's program of educating people at a very young age to instill appreciation for the Chaparral Plant Community and even that in itself is a lesson for parents and/or other adults.  You need to actually start from infancy training these kids while young. Parents need to stop using the Television or Internet Video Games as a baby sitter.

Image - ChaparralConservancy.org
Chaparralian extraordinaire Richard Halsey leads village church kids on a Chaparral Lands Conservancy Nature Walk on Carmel Mountain


Cahuilla Ollamuseumca.org
BTW, while visiting the USA a couple months back, I went by an old neighbour's place a block over from my old place. His name is Duncan Harkleroad and a real outdoors man involved in observational learning from way back at the old school of learning. He learned his observational ability from his father Carl Harkleroad who at one time had the largest amassed collections of Native American (especially Cahuilla) artifacts for which he donated most to the San Diego Museum of Man before his death. Much of this collection came from exploring the Bajadas along the ancient Sea Level line of the once massive former Lake Cahuilla. Many of the boulder rock outcropping piles were the perfect Food and Water Storage places for Cahuilla travelers, hunters parties or fishing parties moving back and forth up and down the Santa Rosa Mountains. Most ALL of his Ollas collection came from these places. There is a saddle of land between Martinez Mountain and Santa Rosa Mountain  (El Toro Peak) which was one of the largest permanent Cahuilla encampments known. Most people do not even know of it because of it's extreme remote location. Duncan again showed me some of the collection of his beautiful still intact clay bottle Ollas wrapped in a sling type netting hanging from his ceiling. They looked almost identical to the one pictured above. But he learned most of his knowledge from countless physical exploration treks with his dad. Anyway, he has written extensively about Bighorn Sheep and it was he who discovered the Bighorn's diet changes during drought in which they will eat Desert Agave flower stalks emerging from the center of the plant. This is the only time they will do this and he actually caught one on camera. This was sent to an Biologist Acquaintance of his up in Montana who actually got Duncan's paper published, but with the Biologist's name on the Paper, otherwise it's apparently meaningless to the Peer-Review boys. Don't get me started. Duncan did show me the original paper. He's often been at odds with Biologists over the years regarding Bighorn Sheep whom he and his father observed and studied long before such Conservation Groups & Biologists exclaimed that only they have such knowledge dissemination privileges on this subject. Remember what Rafe Sagarin of the U.A. article said about that ??
"In the 18th and 19th century, Science was curiosity driven; now we are in an era of science-driven by need - the need created by massive global change that is forcing us to move away from the small-scale, highly controlled experimental data approach. We are forced to use any data we can get to understand this very complex, multi-scaled, global phenomenon."   
"Increasingly, scientists find themselves going back to old records, such as vintage photographs of glaciers that reveal how they have receded" 
"Science is becoming far more open to ways of observing the world that haven't typically been a part of academia," Sagarin said, "such such as traditional knowledge of Native Americans, local knowledge of fishermen, or loggers, or the collective efforts of citizens who count birds in their neighbourhood. In the 1930s, more people in the U.S. A. went to birding parties than to professional baseball games in their neighbourhood."

Actually, Duncan Harkleroad is one of those human story books from which if you respect an older persons experience and background knowledge of the past for which you may actually learn something. Much of the Natural World as it once was and behaved ecologically, no longer exists. This is what was meant by Rafe Sagarin when he spoke of going back into historical records and archived photographs. Some of those Archives are actually people and they are quickly disappearing. Duncan Harkleroad is one of those people. But you'd better hurry if you want to meet him. He must be in his 70s by now. You can purchase his book through Amazon, or write him as I did from the address below. You may even write directly for the book at: Duncan Harkleroad, PO BOX 390234, Anza, CA, 92539-0234
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Reading References:
http://www.amazon.com/Wild-Desert-Sheep-Recreational-Hiker/dp/1475099258
http://observationandecology.com/
http://www.californiachaparral.com/
http://chaparralconservancy.org/about/

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