The Mysterious Ceres

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The search for habitable planets has always run into one big problem: no water on these space bound spheres. Water is a vital source of life, finding it on another planet is always a big boon in the ideas of trying to get out there to colonize another world.

Well, now NASA can add a new planet—albeit a dwarf one—to the list of planets with a form of water on the surface: Ceres. First discovered in 1772 by Johann Elert Bode, Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt that sits between Mars and Jupiter. It has a rocky core and now is confirmed to have water ice in one of its many shadowy regions that never see the light of day. These regions are about 350 degrees below zero!

Water ice is common on the dwarf planet, much more than previously thought—there could even be ice volcanoes that spout ice mixed with mud and salt. All of this makes it clear that at some point Ceres had liquid water.

What does this mean for us? Not much now, but as time goes on and space travel gets increasingly more common for us as humans we could find ourselves ready to look into a little planet that has the possibility for liquid water.

Fish Have Feelings Too

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Fish have long been thought of as creatures without feeling and a lack of intellect. We make jokes about their lack of memory, and have overall desensitized ourselves to them. Few people will stand up and say their favorite animal is a fish, they simply are not very beloved by humans. However, what if you knew they actually had the capacity for a while breadth of feelings?

Jonathan Balcombe, director of animal sentience at the Humane Society Institute for Science claims that fish are much more complex than what we give them credit for. Experiments have shown that fish will respond to being stroked, it actually reduces stress hormones in their bodies. Additionally, they are able to recognize faces within large groups, and pick out people they have bonds with.

These animals have cognitive and emotional lives, much more so than we have previously assumed. There are 33,000 species of sea and freshwater fish, I think it is time to give them some of their dues.

A Bad Year for the Amazon Rainforest

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The Amazon Rainforest has long been a symbol of ecology and preservation. It is often been at the center of the hot topics of deforestation, pollution, abuse of indigenous people and their rights, and extinction of both plant and animal species. However, I find more often than not and despite the serious issues surrounding this epicenter of the earth we see the Amazon Rainforest as only but a symbol—and not a real place. Our removal in part because we are not there, we do not see it on a daily basis, and to us it only exists maybe as some exotic place rather than a concrete location with real daily problems.

However this must end, as the Amazon Rainforest has had a bad year.

Between August 2015 and June 2016 more than 3,085 miles of the Amazon Rainforest were destroyed—a marked increase of 29 percent from the last year. This place is real. The impact on the world is real. The deforestation effects more than half of the total tree biodiversity of the forest and impacts near 180 indigenous groups that live in the Amazon.

While overall the annual loss of the forest has decreased, this is the first time since 2004 that the destruction increased. Why the sudden turn? What has changed? Illegal logging, taking care of stock animals, clearing the forest for living space. As population grows and we need more space and animals surely the forests suffer. Action needs to be taken and we need to stop seeing the Amazon as a distant magical place and instead as a real location that needs help. Solutions must be put in place if we have any hope of letting the forest remain its current size—or better yet grow once again.

Employees Will Need to Adapt to New Tech

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No matter where you work, no matter the field or location, you have surely seen the technology in your job change over time. Computers, smart phones, and automated work forces within robotic technology above all else have completely swung the direction of all businesses in ways they never expected. This tech is not all bad, and within embracing new tools comes many benefits. Technology no doubt has created a more focused and enlightened work force.

There are many ways we can help ourselves, our coworkers, and our employees grow and gain from tech from education to creating a culture of progress. What does this look like though in the work place?

Simply put training is a great place to start. Many fear tech because they are unsure if they will be able to use it, after all everyone fears looking slow or behind the times. Open up the conversation and hold no judgements—only opportunities to learn. Retrain all whenever a new technology is brought in, and make it beneficial to everyone. The key is keeping those around you feeling comfortable, entertained, and encouraged. The next step is tracking feedback both from employees and the numbers. How do those in your company feel about the new tech? How do your sales or business numbers look? Always be open to helping those lagging, and don’t be afraid to make adjustments so that all are more productive and use the tech efficiently. Lastly encourage questions not only from those around you, but from yourself as well. Creating a space that is open and able to discuss will always make integrating tech all the much easier. Within creating this open culture in the workplace tech will only make your business more productive!

Nature Can Heal Itself

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Often it seems we see huge headlines that scream out to us about the plight of our environment. These headlines are often grim, and before going forward it is important to note that we should always heed these warnings. Our planet is in danger, our oceans and forests are under attack by multiple forces from climate change to pollution and everything in between. However, we also need to take the time to observe and learn from every small success we have in regaining a healthy world. Recently news has broken that the Atlantic Ocean might well be healing itself.

Tuna officially contains less mercury. It is believed that reduced coal emissions have started to make this fish a bit safer to eat (though it is good to note that women of child-bearing age should always avoid Bluefin Tuna in case of a pregnancy, as well as children themselves—as any level of mercury is so harmful for their development). A new study finds that mercury levels have declined by about 19 percent between 2004 and 2012 in Tuna.

Coal has been on the decline for a while, which not only means less emissions from the fuel source but also less and less plants being created in the first place. This is small, but evidence that our actions make a difference. Imagine what could happen if we could find ways to offset carbon emissions even more. Our fish could be free of many of these toxic chemicals that not only hurt them, but ourselves as we consume them. We must see this good news and continue to work to free the world from the forces that hurt it.

The Last Tigers  

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As we face more and more alarming numbers and statistics related to our endangered animals we face not only the loss of flora and fauna, but the loss of a country’s icon. Let’s look to Malaysia, a neighbor of Indonesia and a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural powerhouse. This country not only has a diverse population, but also is a megadiverse bio-climate with a high number of species and high levels of endemism. For their part Malaysia signed the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity in 1993 and produced a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which was received by the convention in 1998. However, they are not exempt from the trend of wildlife extinction. A prime example of that is the national animal of Malaysia; the Malayan Tiger.

The Malayan Tiger is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN in 2015, and in a count in 2013 researchers only found around 250 mature breeding individuals. This animal is important to the country: there are two of these tigers depicted on the coat of arms of Malaysia and it appears on many other heraldries of Malaysia. It is prominent in local folklore and the nickname of the Malaysian national football team. Overall it holds a strong place in the history and memory of the Malaysian people.

Malayan Tigers themselves are smaller than their Indian cousins, but still are magnificent predators. They prey on local deer and boar mostly, and like many other troubled carnivores occasionally take livestock as meals.

Their main threats are commercial poaching and infringement on their natural territories. While all states in which the tiger lives have banned domestic trade of tiger parts the practice continues. Their attacks on livestock leave people hunting down problem tigers. If their habitat loss and hunting doesn’t stop Malaysia will lose this important national symbol.

So what is being done? There are many success stories when it comes to endangered animals and scientists are hoping the Malayan Tiger will be one of them. First there is an effort to mitigate human-tiger conflict through better livestock management. By helping farmers have secure cattle sheds, tigers will reduce their predation leading to less needs to eliminate problem tigers. Next is land-use planning, that will lead to tiger-friendly choices and ensure protection of tiger habitats. Last is community outreach that will teach the people the importance of Malayan Tiger survival, and hopefully curb poaching. So, it isn’t all over for the tigers of Malaysia. As with anything there is hope and there is a will to allow these important creatures to survive.

To Mars We Go?

This computer-generated view depicts part of Mars at the boundary between darkness and daylight, with an area including Gale Crater beginning to catch morning lightSpace travel has long been on the minds of the human race. In 1835 the Great Moon Hoax brought us the modern fever of wondering if there is life out in the stars. The Sun, a New York newspaper, reported fake stories about fantastical lifeforms found on the moon observed through earth bound telescopes. Since then of course, we’ve traveled to the moon and back and realized there are no trees, oceans, or anything near what we can call evidence of intelligent life out on the moon. Our attention seemed from that point to quickly swerve to travel to other planets, particularly Mars.

Mars has become Earth’s “backup plan”. Similar in size and with suitable gravity, we’ve seen it as a place that we will one day inhabit—maybe in the event that Earth is beyond saving. Getting there has never been more of reachable goal than it is today; technical readiness, public interest, and political will are finally all aligned to get human beings there. Both NASA and SpaceX have invested interests in getting us to the Red Planet in the next 20 years.

How will humans fare on this new planet however? Mars, while similar in size to Earth, is a much more unforgiving environment. No plants grow in its dry soil, there is no liquid water, and we cannot breathe much needed oxygen in its environment. Our lives on Mars would be limited to being indoors, or in complex space suites whenever we get the chance to step foot outside. We’d battle the fatigue of being constantly being cooped up and surrounded by others. We’ll need to provide shelter to these pilgrims; create ways to grow our own food and provide the inhabitants with clean water. Additionally, astronauts going to Mars will need protection from the extremely high levels of radiation out on the surface of the Red Planet.

In the face of all this, we as humans continue to press forward. Truly the spirit of explorations is shown at its best in these efforts. While only time will tell what will become of our attempts to colonize Mars, we know that the idea of space travel will always light up our minds with wonder and excitement.

The Giant Panda: No longer endangered but still vulnerable

cover-adapt-1190-1Sometimes it is hard to look at the news, it is often filled with disheartening information about our environment and animals. However, every so often we are met with thrilling news; recently the Giant Panda was officially taken off the endangered species list.

For over a half a century an intensive worldwide effort has been made to save these iconic black and white bears native to China. China has long treasured the Panda as an international symbol of its country, and they have been at the forefront of the effort to bring back up the Giant Panda’s numbers. Many breeding centers have been founded, and training methods and styles have been formulated there to help give these captive born bears a higher chance of successfully living out in the wild.

While their native range was wide and expanded past the borders of China, the Giant Panda now only lives in a few mountain ranges in central China, mainly in Sichuan province, but also in Shaanxi and Gansu. Nonetheless the Giant Panda populations in the wild have risen by 17 percent in the past decade, and a few Pandas have even been found outside of their current range.

While no longer listed as endangered they are certainly still vulnerable. Pandas are at risk due to climate change, which will limit their environment and food source as well as contribute to disease. Now only time will tell if we will be able to come together and preserve the hard work that has already been done to save these treasured animals.

President Obama’s visits to Indonesia were not only personal, but political: Part 4

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Finally we are brought back to our original inquiry; what would Clinton and Trump do to continue the United States relationship with Indonesia? As expected the evidence behind what each candidate would do is extremely different.

In 2009 Hillary Clinton said “If you want to know if Islam, democracy, modernity and women’s rights can coexist, go to Indonesia.” As Secretary of State, Clinton, made a detour to Jakarta on her trip to Asia in 2009. She held the same desire as President Obama; to recognize the importance of Southeast Asia, a region that the Obama administration believed was neglected by the Bush administration. Hillary Clinton was very global during her years as Secretary of State, having visited over 112 countries.

At this year’s DNC, an Indonesian woman named Ima Matul Maisaroh was invited to speak in front of thousands of attendees. Ima was appointed by President Barack Obama to be a member of the US Advisory Council on Human Trafficking in December last year along with her fellow Indonesian and victim of human trafficking Shandra Woworuntu. Hillary Clinton has long worked to try to end human trafficking.  Due to this Ima said she was looking forward to the Democratic National Convention as she really wanted to meet Hillary Clinton in person, praising her work to end all forms of human slavery. These tales bode well, Hillary Clinton would certainly be a global president willing to reach out and continue the bonds set up by Obama with Indonesia, as well as address ways to improve the human condition when it comes to those who have had to live like Ima.

And what about Mr. Trump? Well, he already has a tainted name in Indonesia. Trump as a candidate has not been one to shy away from controversy and the world has not let this go unnoticed. Trump has made it clear he doesn’t trust Muslims, and as a country of mostly Muslims Indonesia has not found this favorable. After all, how do you set up good relations with a country of people you do not trust. This leaves little ground to grow on.

Interestingly enough, Trump has a resort in Indonesia called Lido Lakes One Stop Adventure Hotel. But is investing in the country enough to make up for all of his words? Maybe not, the hotel is now run down–though Trump claims he will be revamping it soon and building an entirely new resort in the country. This investment is at odds with his beliefs about Muslims. “How come he won’t allow Muslim people to enter America while he has money in Indonesia, investment in Indonesia,” asks Indonesian cabinet minister Luhut Panjaitan back in May. It seems that in an interview with CNN, Panjaitan suggested that Indonesia would turn to other trading partners if a future President Trump shut US doors to the more than 200 million Indonesian Muslims.

Simply put, starkly different candidates create starkly different futures for the relationship between the United States and Indonesia.

 

 

 

President Obama’s visits to Indonesia were not only personal, but political: Part 3

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Many Americans underestimate the significance of Indonesia—sometimes described as the most important country in the world that people know the least about. With 230 million inhabitants, how has it gone unnoticed by mainstream USA as a whole?

Perhaps the main reason why Indonesia is not well recognized by Americans is that the United States has never gone to war with the country. Largely our collective memory is much more knowledgeable with countries that we’ve fought/allied in the past: like Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, North and South Korea, and the whole of Europe to name a few. Indonesia, while deeply affected by WWII, was never a part of the war like the allies or the axis of evil.

Another reason could be that few Indonesian immigrants and students have come to the USA Compared to other Asian countries, Indonesia today remains distinctly more inward-looking.

Indonesia has rich resources that certainly carry over to the products we can buy here in the states. This though has been more of a curse than a blessing. Over-exploitation is occurring in virtually every square mile of the country, in its territorial waters as well as it 17,000 islands. Insufficient investment in infrastructure has made Indonesia a high-cost production base. A host of impediments to domestic as well as foreign investment are making it harder for the private sector to create jobs at the pace required to absorb new entrants into the labor force. The combination of these clashing ideas could also add to the ignorance that the USA holds when it comes to Indonesia.

What Americans have missed out on because of this lack of knowledge is seeing how raising Indonesia’s profile could benefit the United States by helping to maintain a balance among Asia’s three leading powers: China, Japan, and India. Furthermore, Indonesia’s success in creating a durable system of democratic governance holds great potential benefits for a world struggling to address the problems associated with weak or conflict-ridden nations.

Indonesia would like to see United States economic and developmental assistance scaled up, but it will be difficult to meet their expectations in this area. The most problematical area is military cooperation because Indonesia has yet to articulate, let alone implement, a defense and security strategy that will gain strong support from the United States. Indonesia could learn a lot from American policies, if we partnered with them to help the country figure out the gaps in their governmental policy. Certainly together our two countries would benefit from each other if only we spend the time to learn and engage with each other.