January 19th, 2020

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Sparrows and Juncos

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IT Certificate

Take a look at Google's IT Certificate and its new Python version.  

I've been intrigued by the rise of certificates in college.  Most of these are programs designed to train students for a specific job or cement a specialty within a career major/minor, although some do feature hobbies or other personal interests.  Smaller and more nimble than a major or minor, they're usually more relevant to what you actually do in a job.  Majors are larded with crap you don't need that just wastes your time and money.  My advice to people who are attending college in hopes of actual job-relevant training, outside a few careers that absolutely require a specific major, is to pick a small easy major at a college with a big range of certificates, then pick things like Office Skills, Information Technology, Customer Relations, Elder Care, Animal Handling, Landscaping, or whatever else you expect to be doing.  Look at want ads in the career you want to work -- what skills are they asking for, and can you find classes in those exact things? 

In terms of teaching job skills, community colleges often outperform fancier ones, and trade schools are even better.  Also, many of these certificates are available via online schools.  There are whole careers that college just doesn't cover, that you can learn online, such as dog breeding.  I looked that up for a poem once: yes, really, there's no specific college support for it, but a few organizations have filled the gap on their own.  Don't be afraid to search for a school that actually teaches what you want to do, even if it's not a college.

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The 60-year Curriculum

 ... is an attempt to keep college relevant, but it's frankly fantasy, unless someone forces employers to hire older workers.  Right now, employers want only employees of about age 30-40.  It doesn't matter how long people live if most employers refuse to hire them, especially in a job market that requires many people to switch jobs or even careers every few years.  The older folks are simply not permitted to work.  So having an education that enables them to work past 40 is irrelevant.  They're stuck scrabbling at short-term jobs for decades until they're permitted to retire.
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Hard Plant Tissue

 ... and our ancestors.

Let me just point out a few things:

* Most early hominids had bigger, stronger teeth and jaws than modern humans.

* Hit it really hard with a rock and most hard things become soft things.  This was probably the first scientific discovery of the hominids.

* Fire makes most hard foods softer.

* Acid does the same for some.

* And fermentation.  Although we no longer think it's a good idea to nail ducks to a wall for 2 weeks before eating them.

* It's amazing what people will eat when they get hungry enough.
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Farming Near Rivers

... will be reduced in China.  They're not completely  stupid. 

This would be a great idea in America too, for several reasons.  It would reduce runoff, improve wildlife habitat, and buffer human areas against flooding.  If we simply designated a boundary area along all the waterways, we would make a huge improvement in water quality, wildlife conservation, and safety.  I would even bet that economic gains from avoiding floods would equal or exceed the loss of crops, since areas immediately adjacent to rivers aren't the most reliable producers due to flooding already.
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Species on the Move

Climate change is driving many species outside their former range.  This is sparking ethical debates.

My stances as bridge crew, Spaceship Earth are as follows:

* Species always move in response to environmental shifts.  These natural movements should be respected and supported.  It's not as much of a crunch as people might think because in most areas, some species will move out as others are moving in.  Yes, there will be some calamities, but that's supposed to happen.

* However, you are at liberty to slay noxious lifeforms that are attempting to invade your territory.  I don't hesitate to stomp velvet ants which are not historic to my area, because I do not wish them to establish.

* Exotic species are those transported by humans into a new location.  If they become a nuisance due to overpropagation, they are then invasive species.  These should be removed if at all possible.  Never underestimate humanity's ability to destroy things.

* It is critical to protect escape routes if we wish species to survive.  The easiest ways to do this are connecting national parks or other refuges and establishing riparian corridors along the north-south axis, along with mountain access in areas where that's the closest source of colder temperatures.

A much thornier question is whether humans should assist species in making survival moves they could not make on their own.  Historically humanity's record of good choices in moving species is nearly nonexistent and its tendency to create disasters is high.  But without some help, you can forget about most of the flora and fauna in Europe because their mountain ranges run east-west, blocking the retreat.  They hemorrhage species with every major shift, and that's going to be a great deal worse now that humans have wrecked the ecosystem.  I have not yet formed a firm stance on this issue as there are compelling arguments on both sides.  It may need to be decided on a case-by-case basis.

I am more sympathetic to species that will fall off the cliff and die without assistance.  This applies to many alpine species due to the layered habitat zones.  Those at higher elevations have nowhere to go.  Additionally, every move upward necessarily shrinks the available territory.  This makes mountains another high priority for protection.
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Rewilding

 ... means giving back some territory to nature.

If you control outdoor territory, you can participate.  Simply dedicate some portion of your territory to native species of plants and animals.  Tamper with it only to maintain that mix of native species.  

Any further efforts you make to support native species will also help.  Here are some basics for the backyard.  For larger areas, see forest and prairie management.
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Ecological Sin

The Pope has proposed a category of ecological sin

I note that amidst all the dithering nobody seems to have recalled that (according to this tradition) God made the Earth and told humans to take care of it, which makes destroying God's work a very credible sin indeed.  I mean, how can man name the animals if some of them have died out?  They're supposed  to be found and named.  Surely thwarting that is a sin.