Land Inequality

Land inequality is directly threatening 1.4 billion of the world’s poorest people, according to a recent report.

New calculations have discovered that disparities in rights and access to land are more than 40 percent higher than previously thought. Just one percent of the world’s largest farms currently operate more than 70 percent of all farmland.

A lack of access and ownership is pushing rural and Indigenous communities off of the land. It is also putting the livelihoods of an estimated 2.5 billion people at risk, the International Land Coalition (ILC) & Oxfam report found.

“Growing inequality is the greatest obstacle to poverty eradication; in countries like Guatemala, extreme inequality costs lives,” says Ana María Mendez, Oxfam’s Guatemala director.

“In rural Guatemala, extreme land inequality undermines the rights and livelihoods of indigenous and small-farmer communities and exacerbates the climate crisis.

Source: Euronews

The Geopolitics of Fish Flatulence

Source: Pacific and Atlantic Herring Produce Burst Pulse Sounds

Burst pulse sounds? Squeeking? A “so-called voice”? Cheese? A sort of sneeze?

Turns out its flatulence, but sophisticated flatulence, used by herring for communication. This ability, as it should be called, has been long understood:

Quoted from: Rigby’s Encyclopaedia of the Herring

Herrings can make a noise when they are lifted from the sea. This has been known for hundreds of years. In De Harengo (1643) Paul Neucrantz devotes a whole chapter to the subject, Concerning the squeaking of herrings whilst they do not breathe, arguing:

All fish have this so-called voice, coming either from their gills, which contain little bristles, or from the innards gathered around their stomachs – because air is held in these places and, when the fish are rubbed or shaken, sounds are squeezed out.

In The Herring; Its Effect on the History of Britain (1919), AM Samuel writes:

There is a belief among fishermen that a herring when caught articulates a sound similar to the word “cheese.” This sound is caused by an escape of air from the air bladder, or a movement of the gills. Fishermen, indeed, frequently state that the herrings “sneeze,” just as Aristotle says that gurnards “grunt.”

In 2003 the sneeze was confirmed as a high-pitched fart from the herring’s swim bladder, via its anus. It was suggested that the purpose of this little raspberry was likely to be rooted in nighttime communication within the shoal.


But on to the geopolitics (source)

In 1981, a Soviet submarine ran aground on the south coast of Sweden, just 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from a Swedish naval base. The Soviets claimed that they were forced into Swedish territory by severe distress, and later navigation errors, while Sweden saw it as proof that the then Soviet Union was infiltrating Swedish waters.

The submarine was returned to international waters, but the Swedish government remained alert, convinced that Russian subs could still be operating near their territory. Which is when they started to pick up elusive underwater signals and sounds. In 1982, several of Sweden’s subs, boats, and helicopters pursued one of these unidentified sources for a whole month, only to come up empty-handed.

This continued for over a decade. Every time they picked up an acoustic signal they would search and find nothing but for a few bubbles on the sea’s surface. Sweden was, of course, worried about the intrusions, and couldn’t think why, with the Cold War now over, Russia would continue to provoke them in this manner.

And these bubbles, so to speak, were not Soviets, but herring farts.

Moral of the story: we need to know more about the gaseous emissions of all lifeforms.


Wealthy investors seem to be exploiting land-conservation tax breaks, and the Senate is taking notice

Source: Washington Post

Conservation easements are a means of protecting undeveloped land. Such easements typically consist of tax breaks granted landowners to keep the land undeveloped. For example, the owner of a large tract of forest in a rapidly developing region might seek a conservation easement on their property if they want to keep the land undeveloped, but not pay the growing taxes driven by adjacent development. Conservation easements have been a vital means of preserving land (and natural spaces) which would otherwise have to be sold due to the tax burden.

As with any other good policy, there are those who will take advantage of it. This Washington Post story details a tax scheme (racket, fraud, etc.) whereby groups of wealthy people buy into (as a syndicate) a large tract of land in some out of the way place (in this case, rural Georgia) and take the conservation easement tax breaks. In this case, the land is unlikely to develop as it is in an area of rapidly declining population. But the conservation easements are still a legal option.

Syndicated conservation easements, such as the one in Clay County, grant write-offs to multiple partners, each buying a share in a tract of land. They are attracting increased scrutiny from lawmakers and the IRS as a means for the wealthy to avoid paying their appropriate share of taxes.

As of February, about 84 percent of syndicated easements were in some stage of an IRS audit, according to the finance committee report, which was released in August. The report found that about $10.6 billion of tax revenue was lost to syndicated easements between 2010 and 2017. And lawmakers in September introduced a new bill aimed at closing such loopholes.



Million Gardens Movement

Modern Farmer is launching the Million Gardens Movement to build a community of people who believe our everyday decisions about what we eat and how we live directly shape our land and our society. We want to bring together people who understand the simple act of planting a tomato is an act of hope and resilience.

Covid-19 and the recession have revealed our food systems and our communities can be vulnerable. It is our hope that members of the Million Gardens Movement can come together to help address these issues, and to help their community.

Source: Modern Farmer Million Gardens Movement

Ideas for OWU

Perennial Gardens Proposal (PDF)


Mobile Gardens Proposal (PDF)

Research: intelligence is the ability to adapt to the environment

Ever since psychologists started measuring intelligence, including the academic skills measured by IQ tests and their proxies, they have known that intelligence is not really your ability to solve obscure multiple-choice problems with largely trivial content that will have no impact on your future life whatsoever. Instead, intelligence is the ability to adapt to the environment: adaptive intelligence.

Organisms that don’t adapt die.

Intelligence is not just about an inert ability to take tests; it is about the active deployment of that ability to solve problems of life.

In my in-press book, Adaptive Intelligence, I argue that all us, including colleges and universities, ought to focus not on producing test takers who are content to see the world go to hell in a handbasket so long as they get their degrees and make their money. Look around us. It’s not working! Instead, we need to develop and assess students’ adaptive skills in and willingness to make the world a better place. If not now, when?

Source: COVID-19 Has Taught Us What Intelligence Really Is (Inside Higher Ed)

Environmental Ethics Quiz: A hunter was fatally gored by the deer he thought he killed, officials say

So… did you think “that’s fair!” or something else?

An Arkansas hunter was killed Tuesday by a deer he assumed was shot dead, said Keith Stephens, a spokesman for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Thomas Alexander, 66, was an experienced hunter who had lived in the Yellville, Ark., area for several years, Stephens said. He was hunting Tuesday in the nearby Ozark Mountains using a primitive firearm known as a muzzleloader, according to Stephens, and called a family member at 6:30 p.m. to tell them he had successfully shot a buck.

But the timeline of events becomes less clear after that.

Stephens isn’t sure if Alexander, a licensed hunter, immediately left his deer stand or waited before approaching the buck. Muzzleloader season runs from Oct. 19-27, Stephens said — but regardless of the firearm, the commission recommends waiting at least 30 minutes to ensure a shot deer is actually dead.

More: A hunter was fatally gored by the deer he thought he killed, officials say