Tech Science Now + Beyond

Science and technology is not the escape from Earth you think it is

The day the SpaceX mission launched, I opened my social media to find various posts from friends and family members all saying the same thing: “They chose the right time to go,” “I wish I could go to space now,” “Now is the perfect time to leave Earth!” I understood what people were saying. It was a tough week, fraught with reports of coronavirus infections, murder hornets, and brutal police killings of Black Americans. The rest of the year continued to face more and more concerns. Nonetheless, all these posts seemed somewhat off to me for a reason I couldn’t pinpoint.

Now, I recognize what that feeling was. Looking over the posts again, I realized that almost every single one was made by a white person, and none were written by a single Black person. It made me wonder: why do we think we have the right to escape this? Don’t get me wrong. I understand that escapism is a natural human desire, and it’s hard to blame people for wanting to escape from a global pandemic and a racist government. But at the same time, what good does escape do?

These posts also reveal another strange phenomenon: how we view science as separate from the “real world.” Space, technology, and science are often considered exempt from our human world’s biases, wholly infallible and detached from racism, corruption, and inequality. But this isn’t true. Technology informs government policies, provides tools to corrupt police forces, and sows seeds of classism and inequality. Science informs health and medicine, two very unequal sectors of our society–as this pandemic has shown with difficulties in distributing vaccines to the most in need. Even the United States Space Program was pushed forward out of Cold-War era political tensions, driven by political motive and power. This isn’t to say that science is inherently evil or corrupt, but that it has an incredible capacity for political and social change.

Human problems don’t end when we go to space. They just change location.

Science is and has always been a human endeavor. As long as humans are involved, it will take on the biases of the people who create and study it. For example, NASA is not free from human prejudice and politics. NASA’s workforce is still about 72% white, and only a third of the employees are women. SpaceX founder Elon Musk certainly isn’t free from prejudice as well. Musk has expressed some progressive views, but he’s also courted controversy by speaking out against coronavirus lockdownsspouting red pill rumors, and fighting union organizing. That doesn’t mean that SpaceX is necessarily racist or evil; it just means that the world of aerospace engineering is still capable of human biases.

These statements also show the wrong way we view science as totally disparate from our society. In reality, science and technology inform almost every aspect of our daily lives, from the information we receive daily to the medicine and hygiene we all need. Science is not separate from human endeavors but entirely integral to it. The world of science is not a detached fantasy world where one can ignore human problems. It is woven into every fiber of the world we inhabit now. We can use science and technology to create positive solutions, or we can ignore this opportunity and allow them to continue to enforce the status quo. Either way, we cannot ignore the impact of either of these sectors.

As attractive as it sounds, going to space will never be a true escape. People in space are still people, with all the biases, prejudices, fears, and traumas of people on Earth. Human problems don’t end when we go to space. They just change location. Science is an intrinsic part of every problem or solution that we have on Earth; it is not a distraction from our society but a fundamental aspect of it.

Most of us cannot go to space at this moment. It would be logically improbably and ethically wrong. Right now, the best thing we can do is stand our ground and stay on Earth. Hard as is it, we need you here, and now is not the time to run — or fly — away.

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The Environment The World

Friendly reminder that Teddy Bear Bees, a.k.a. nature’s cuddliest and stingless bees, exist

I’m calling an Animal Planet audible. While 2020 was the scene in a nature documentary that makes you never want to watch a nature documentary ever again, there’s still time to turn 2021 into the jaunty, comic relief scene. How? Three words: Teddy Bear Bees.

To say last year was horrible would be an understatement. On top of living through a global pandemic, we were all accosted with headlines that only seemed to increase in severity as the days went on. And, honestly, 2021 hasn’t been much better, with headlines of countries entering their third wave of COVID-19, protesters killed in Myanmar, American police brutality and mass shootings, France’s proposed hijab ban, and more.

For me personally, the headline that broke the camel’s back, so to speak, in 2020 was murder hornets. If you’re unfamiliar with murder hornets, I will keep it brief. Last year, it was reported that a subspecies of hornets (also named the Asian giant hornets) had arrived on U.S. soil. In Japan, these hornets kill at least 50 people a year. When they were discovered in Washington State, beekeepers realized they were infiltrating honeybee hives, decapitating bees, and then making off with their thoraxes, which they then fed to their young. Insert dramatic reverb sound effect here.

Murder hornets are the imposters (any Among Us fans?) of the insect world: they are committing atrocious crimes—by human moral standards at least—and wiping out an already endangered species.

In addition, given what we know about American racism toward the Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, I couldn’t help but notice some similarities between media outlets sensationalizing the alleged origins of COVID-19 and the origins of murder hornets. Both angles felt xenophobic and racist. Both were used to make Americans feel threatened—when in actuality the only thing threatening Americans is Americans (i.e. white Americans.)

Thus, murder hornets were an all-around sour cherry of bad news set atop an already garbage sundae of worse news. But in 2021, I’m saying enough is enough. We’re making Teddy Bear Bees happen to give ourselves a brain break from horrifying headlines.

In California, male Carpenter Bees have become affectionately known as “Teddy Bear Bees” because of their fat, fuzzy, and golden stature. These bees are also native to Australia and can reach lengths up to 15 to 20 millimeters, which is pretty big for bees. The best part about Teddy Bear Bees is that they cannot sting you! This makes them gentle giants gracing our gardens with sweet sounds and immaculate vibes.

I only recently discovered the existence of Teddy Bear Bees after my mom showed me a photo someone had posted on social media. To feast your eyes on an image of a Teddy Bear Bee taken on an iPhone is akin to how I imagine people in 1934 felt when first seeing the now-infamous photo of the Loch Ness Monster. Or maybe even how viewers of the Patterson-Gimlin film felt after catching that first glimpse of Big Foot’s long-armed gait.

All that to say, it seemed like it was staged or doctored, like someone with too much time on their hands photoshopped a regular-sized bee to hover over the flowers in their garden like a grainy UFO spotted in the middle of the desert. It looked like something you’d see on the covers of the salacious magazines that once lined grocery store checkout aisles, artfully crafted to grab your attention with utter absurdity.

A quick google search confirmed, however, that not only are Teddy Bear Bees real, but many bee species remain endangered. The Center for Biological Diversity reports that more than half of North America’s 4,000 native bee species are in decline, with 1 in 4 species at risk of extinction.

With spring officially sprung in the Northern Hemisphere, there are a few ways to help the bee populations in your community this season. First and foremost, plant a garden with bee-friendly flowers and trees, rich in pollen and nectar, to help rebuild safe habitats. This can also take the form of building bee condos and setting out bee baths, which are typically shallow bowls filled with water to help keep bees hydrated.

You can also help by making a commitment to never use pesticides and fertilizers that are harmful to bees. Instead, stock up on organic products and try out organic solutions like composting and adding natural pest-eaters like ladybugs and praying mantis to your garden. Lastly, don’t forget to support your local beekeepers. If you’re not feeling up to the task of fostering a bee community in your backyard, help out the beekeepers who are up to the task by purchasing their products. These products are great ways to shop locally and sustainably.

Celebrate Earth Month, taking place all April long, by creating some buzz around Teddy Bear Bees and encouraging your friends to join the #BeeTheSolution movement! Happy Earth Month, everyone!


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Editor's Picks Science Now + Beyond

Dear Earth, I’m sorry it took a pandemic for me to care about you

I have never been eco-conscious.

Whenever I hear “reduce your carbon footprint!” on the news, I’d roll my eyes and think, I’m just one person. Will I really make a difference? 

Like every other global issue that makes the news, climate change has become just another opportunity for politicians to hold a bipartisan screaming match.

I don’t need some bureaucrat sitting in his mansion on a hill to tell me how to live my life. 

But then the pandemic infiltrated 2020.

With the world under lockdown, I found myself stuck at home with nothing to do but stare at the walls. As April rolled by and flowers bloomed, the one thing I had to look forward to in my static days was my daily walk around the block. Because the hectic pace of the world had come to a screeching halt, I wasn’t just squeezing these walks into my busy schedule to convince myself that I’d exercised enough and therefore earned the right to laze in bed the rest of the night.

In fact, these walks weren’t about exercise at all anymore, but escaping my house to change my surroundings.

Pink and white flowers dotted the golf course that’s tucked in the middle of my neighborhood. Neighbors who would otherwise be at work languished in their green, front yards, waving at me as I strolled by. Birds and squirrels frolicked carelessly in the street, the pavement untouched by passing vehicles. 

It sounds like a scene from Snow White, but for someone who rarely spent time outside and didn’t appreciate nature up until then, that’s what it felt like. 

And if I ever passed a crushed mini bottle of Tito’s or an empty Big Gulp laying on its side in the grass, I’d glare at it, thinking, who’s the jerk that left this

Being eco-conscious is as simple as appreciating nature, which has come under attack with the rise in climate change. The Earth is always fluctuating, so whether you believe in human-influenced climate change or not, it’s impossible to ignore the weather crises people have suffered in recent years, like the wildfires in California, the dust storms in Mexico, and the hurricanes in Texas and along the East Coast.
When natural disasters born of climate change hit the earth,
it usually affects already vulnerable populations the most while the big guys (those in power at the top of single-use plastic companies, oil giants, and other fossil fuel companies) remain untouched.

This is what makes climate change not just an earth issue, but a social justice issue.

It sounds like a scene from Snow White, but for someone who rarely spent time outside and didn’t appreciate nature up until then, that’s what it felt like.

These natural disasters only make life worse when they hit a world crippled by a pandemic. In impoverished populations around the world, where people are already struggling to access medical care, vaccines, and cope with social distancing methods, living sustainably isn’t always a priority.

But organizations like Greenpeace and the Global Footprint Network have researched, advocated, and acted on climate change issues to bring to light the harm in plastics produced by large companies like Coca-Cola, Nestle, and PepsiCo. These companies contribute to single-use plastic, the kind we see polluting our oceans and killing marine life. 

So why does our green thumb matter, when global companies produce waste and toxins by the hour? 

Only 2% of plastic waste is recycled enough to benefit the planet. Ninety-nine percent of plastic comes from fossil fuels. If companies, and everyone in the world who is able to, made a commitment to reducing their plastic consumption (or you can start with theseways you can help the earth!) this major pollutant can vanish over time. 

Despite these movements gaining a worldwide presence and highlighting the issues faced by a fragile Earth, behemoth companies are still putting profit and growth over the wellness of our planet. 

Recently, Japan announced that it will release toxic water from the Fukushima Power Plant into the ocean. The project, which will take decades to accomplish, will release about 1.25 million tons of water into the ocean. Just when environmental activists thought that the climate crisis couldn’t get any worse, a global power like Japan will directly pollute our ocean. Fisheries and other marine businesses will have serious economic impacts. Greenpeace Japan said in a statement that this decision “ignores human rights and international maritime law.” 

Do you see why the environment, and living an eco-conscious life, is more important than ever? But solutions are attainable.

This Earth Day, I know that I’ll be thinking about how my footprint affects my environment. You can too, and it doesn’t have to be so doom and gloom! 

NASA’s #ConnectedByEarth is a four-day event the week of Earth Day, celebrating our planet, teaching about climate change, and opening the conversation without all the partisan bickering. 

This is perfect for Earth Day because climate change is something that does influence everyone, whether we know it or not. The pandemic forced me to appreciate the world around me.

Now when I take my walks, I hesitate before flicking a wad of gum onto the pavement, or haphazardly flinging my water bottle into a trash can when a recycling bin isn’t handy. From natural disasters to the very food we eat, when the Earth suffers, we all suffer. 

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The Environment 2020 Elections Inequality

President Trump’s four year long war on science needs to come to an end

The past four years have been irreversibly affected by efforts from the Trump administration to limit the use of science in policy making. During this administration’s tenure all of the progressive climate reforms made by its predecessors have been reversed – the United States removed itself from The Paris Agreement and the wildfires raging across the West Coast have doubled in size causing the forced evacuations of more than 90,000 residents. To make matters worse, these fires show no sign of slowing down as increased emissions from heat-trapping gases have led to warmer and drier conditions in the area. The flames which have torn across the West Coast thus far in 2020 indicate the most active fire season on record. As the climate warms, the wildfires will continue to grow larger and more frequent. Still, President Trump denies the enormity of the threat presented by climate change. Our nation cannot afford another four years of his environmental inaction.

Both presidential debates last month included questions regarding climate change, prompting the candidates to speak on their plans to rectify the situation. But here’s the thing—there is no rectifying it. Global warming has worsened with every passing year since at least 1950. The only viable option left—apart from laying in the grave which has been dug for all living beings—is to try to slow down the progress of global warming and not allow the earth to become entirely unlivable for the future generations. Perhaps this is a classic case of too little, too late.

Since taking office President Trump has invalidated the well-known fact that carbon dioxide emissions are caused by human activities, labeling it “alarmist.” Instead, he has held onto the American coal industry as well as domestic oil production for dear life, therefore accelerating fossil fuel development. On the debate stage a few Thursday’s ago, the president proudly stuck up his faux green thumb and proclaimed that his fervent solution to save the environment is to plant more trees.

On the other hand, Joe Biden’s plan is only a little less ashy. His campaign promises a strict reduction of net carbon emissions through the creation of new energy-efficient homes and electric vehicle charging stations—but there is a big discrepancy. The former vice president cites support of the promotion of clean energy while simultaneously assuring voters that the jobs associated with natural gas production will remain secure. So, he must be lying to someone. A real transition from fossil fuels toward renewable energy will inevitably result in the elimination of the oil and coal industries. At the rate in which the world is warming, this elimination might need to come sooner than we’d expect, leaving millions of working class Americans out of work. But, at least it’s a step away from immediate and total destruction of the earth.

The hottest year ever recorded was in 2016, with 2019 coming in a close second place by less than one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit. Right now, there is an increased urgency to implement real change because doom is impending. Whoever winds up in the Oval Office next must plan for the economic pitfalls that will come along with such a change—but nonetheless ensure that the change happens, and fast. That is why it is imperative that all U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote do so today. In more ways than one, we hold the fate of the world in the palms of our hands. 


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The Environment Science Now + Beyond

Earth Day Network plans to engage citizens in climate action for Earth Day 2020

The world recently celebrated Earth Day after entering the 49th year since it first began in 1970. Many people took the time to raise awareness, by sharing a motivational video or even making eco-friendly clothes. With the annual holiday celebrating its 50th year in 2020, the Earth Day Network will focus on climate action. Overall, this process is to take care of the environment.

I think we can all say that the Earth, a place that we can call home, hasn’t been in the best condition for quite a while. Some countries are living in polluted air, have no clean water to drink or bathe in, and overpopulation is increasing. The list of ongoing conflicts is continuing. This initiative that the Earth Day Network plans to take into action will definitely help benefit our planet. 

During a press release, Earth Day Network President, Kathleen Rogers said that next year has to be the year of transformative change that seizes the positive action underway in order to make the world bigger and bolder.  “Together, we can unite to build a movement that is inclusive, ambitious, and impossible to ignore,” Rogers said.

Climate scientist Gavin Schmidt tweeted a photo of a map of Earth since the first Earth Day up until March of this year. Just by looking at this map, you can see the drastic change that the planet has been through in the past 49 years. According to a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), greenhouse gas emissions had to fall to 45 percent of the levels from 2010 to meet the goal to 1.5 Celsius above the pre-industrial levels.

So what are some ways that we as humans can do to help change the Earth in a positive manner? Here are suggestions from the Earth Day Network that will help encourage you to take action.

1. Vote Earth

A pile of voter stickers that read "I Voted" in red, white, and blue.
[Image description: A pile of voter stickers that read “I Voted” in red, white, and blue.] Via Element5 on Unsplash
This year and 2020 are big years for many countries. That is elections.

Vote Earth’s purpose is to register one million voters, educate and activate new and existing registered voters, and demand all political candidates to make their support of climate action. The campaign also wants to target young and first-time voters into participating. This is a great time for eligible voters to encourage candidates to engage in different environmental policies.

Whoever will be chosen into office for your country will make a huge difference on climate change.

2, Earth Challenge 2020

A woman is holding a pile of dirt with a small plant growing on top.
[Image description: A woman is holding a pile of dirt with a small plant growing on top.] Via Nikola Jovanovic on Unsplash
Earth Challenge 2020 plans to engage citizens worldwide to collect one billion points in different environmental areas, such as water quality.

By creating this challenge, Earth Day Network wants to make this report on environmental health the largest citizen scientist initiative ever. They are also planning on launching an app at the beginning of the year. To participate in this action, connect with @Earth_Challenge on Twitter using the hashtag #EC2020.

3. Billion Acts of Green

Three wind turbines are on a green hill. The sky above them is a bright blue with a lot of clouds.
Image description: Three wind turbines are on a green hill. The sky above them is a bright blue with a lot of clouds. Photo by Tim Foster

Earth Day Network plans to update the landmark Billion Acts of Green program by reaching their goal of 3.5 billion environmentally-friendly acts to complete. Many of these acts include reducing your carbon footprint, conserve energy, end plastic pollution, and many more.

Billion Acts of Green also encouraged to participate in environmental projects in your community.

4. Great Global Cleanup

A chalk figure of a person throwing away a piece of trash in a trash can.
[Image description: A chalk figure of a person throwing away a piece of trash in a trash can.] Via Gary Chan on Unsplash
This project is very easy. All you have to do is pick up pieces of trash from parks, neighborhoods, beaches, and many other outdoor environments.

The network wants people in U.S. cities to participate in this event in hopes of becoming the largest environmental volunteer event ever. Through the use of social media, digital mapping, and mobile registration, Great Global Cleanup will connect partners and participating members from around the globe to pick up trash from the ground.

With the help of the Earth Day Network, we can all make a difference in helping the Earth become a more eco-friendly environment again. Even just contributing to one small action will make an impact.