Our Organ Donation System Is Unfair. The Solution Might Be Too.–But just like some New Yorkers and Californians thought the old system was unfair, people from states like Missouri and Iowa see unfairness in the new system. In January, 22 senators signed an open letter to the Department of Health and Human Services demanding answers about how the new policy would affect rural communities. In February, the Kansas state legislature introduced a bill that would allow organ donors to specify that they want their body parts to go only to in-state recipients. It has the backing of doctors at the University of Kansas Medical Center’s liver transplant center. fivethirtyeight.com
Petitions Are Everywhere Because We Don’t Know How Else to Do Politics–Why are digital petitions flowering across the internet? One obvious argument is that petitions are, essentially, built for social media. The two basic things you do with a petition, endorse it and share it with someone else, are the exact two things you do with a post on Facebook and Twitter — only, instead of a signature, a blue thumbs-up or a red heart. Signing and sharing a petition doesn’t just provide people with a minor sense of accomplishment; it allows them to demonstrate that accomplishment publicly, in the manner we’re all acculturated to on social media. How else would my followers know I’m a passionate political activist about making Shrek the national bird? Intelligencer
A Very Inconvenient Truth–Answering that question requires knowing how much electricity needs to be generated. Decarbonizing is not only about replacing existing power plants. Electricity generation represents less than 40 percent of the energy we use. In order to fully decarbonize any economy, it will be necessary to electrify transportation, heating, and more. Even our present electricity demand requires over 8,000 large power plants. Decarbonizing through universal electrification means we’ll need to more than double that generating capacity. Could wind and solar alone get us there?
Sadly, it is becoming clear that although they will certainly make a valuable contribution, to do the whole job, wind and solar will need a lot of help. democracyjournal.org
Washington Governor signs bill to allow composting human bodies–This week, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill to allow the composting of human remains within the state. It is the only state in the US—and possibly the only government in the world—to explicitly allow "natural organic reduction" of human remains. arstechnica.com
Excerpt from Tired of Winning: A Chronicle of American Decline–Huntington, the second largest city in West Virginia, once had a population of more than 100,000 people, but that number has reduced to some 48,000, and almost one-quarter of these, some 12,000 citizens, have either latent or active substance-use disorders. In a local coffee shop (the owners, incongruously, Australians), the woman behind the counter mentioned this affliction, and said, ‘But everywhere has problems, doesn’t it?’ Not so oblivious as it sounds. An incurious visitor could notice nothing amiss in the city, except its absences. longreads.com
What an Extinct Bird Re-Evolving Says About “Species”–How could the same species evolve more than once? Both the fossil and modern rail are descendants of flying rails that made their way to Aldabra from the nearby mainland. In both cases, the rails adapted to the island over time. And each time, the species gradually lost its ability to fly, possibly due to a lack of predators on the island (which removes a significant selection pressure for flight). This raises an interesting question: Can birds on different branches of the evolutionary tree really be part of the same species? The answer depends on what you mean by “species.” This is the species problem, one of philosophy of biology’s persistent demons. As it turns out, it is difficult (and some would argue, impossible) to conceptualize species in a way that fully, and without exception, captures what it is that makes a group of organisms one species and not another. Nautilus
How Selfie Culture Ruins the Great Outdoors for Everyone Else–The tense scene is representative of a new relationship with public parks—one that, with its prioritization of snapshots and social media, requires little in the way of outdoor skill or knowledge. Joffre is at the epicentre of this cultural change: the hashtag #JoffreLakes pulls up over 64,000 images and videos on Instagram, and many flock to Joffre to have their photo taken on what they call the “selfie log”—a tree trunk that extends from the shore into one of the lakes—against a backdrop of forest and mountains. Between May and September 2011, around 52,000 people visited the park; in that same period in 2018, nearly 150,000 people did. When the parking lot is full, people park illegally on the shoulder of the highway and walk, sometimes four abreast, to the park’s entrance. Police struggle to control the crowds—one rcmp officer called it “driver anarchy”—and warn that a serious accident could happen on the highway. There are also no garbage cans at Joffre, as is the case in most provincial parks, and littering is an ongoing issue. Last year, two hikers collected around forty pounds of discarded containers, beer cans, and camping equipment that had been hidden next to the trail. thewalrus.ca
Can you skip 47 days of English class and still graduate from high school?–The records obtained by The Post for Einstein include only students who have at least 10 unexcused absences in a course — twice as many as the policy’s threshold.
“The policy is intentionally nebulous — for the purpose of graduating students,” said a county teacher who, like many other educators, spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. “When these students graduate, what are we saying? The diploma means nothing, and you don’t even have to show up?” www.washingtonpost.com
The end of forgetting–
Black students on a field trip said they were told ‘no food, no drink, no watermelon.’–To some critics, the middle-schoolers’ experience demonstrated why the MFA and other prestigious cultural institutions remain stubbornly white. Racism, wrote Globe opinion columnist Renée Graham, “compels us to self-segregate, to do it to ourselves before it can be done to us. And we tick off the places we won’t go — certain ballparks, restaurants, theaters, symphony halls, hospitals, and stores. And museums.” www.washingtonpost.com