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1,000 Amazon Employees Are Joining Global Climate Strike

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1,000 Amazon Employees Are Joining Global Climate Strike
May 24 climate strike in the Philippines. Leo Sabangan / 350.org

At least 1,006 Amazon employees have pledged to walk out in support of the global climate strike planned for Sept. 20.


The action, announced Monday, will mark the first time that employees at Amazon's Seattle headquarters have participated in a strike since the company was founded 25 years ago, Wired reported.

"It's incredibly important that we show up and support the youth who are organizing this kind of thing, because I think it's really important to show them, hey, you have allies in tech," Amazon software engineer Weston Fribley told Wired.

Global climate strikes are being organized by Greta Thunberg's Fridays For Future to coincide with the United Nations Climate Action Summit, which begins Sept. 23. But Amazon's participation in the strike also grows out of the organizing of Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ), who circulated a letter in April calling on the company to take concrete actions to fight the climate crisis. They also backed a shareholder resolution outlining a more aggressive climate policy, which was voted down in May. However, their agitation did prompt Amazon to announce Shipment Zero, its first ever pledge to reduce shipping emissions, Amazon employee and walkout organizer Rebecca Sheppard told The Guardian. The pledge commits Amazon to making 50 percent of its shipments net zero by 2030, but only applies to shipping itself, not the emissions of data centers.

"As soon as Greta Thunberg called for a global climate strike, AECJ members wanted to know how we could help," Sheppard told The Guardian. "We also needed to escalate our campaign. We've been seeing management listen but we haven't seen management understand. They're not giving us concrete commitments. They're not feeling the urgency."

The employees, however, are. Since the walkout was announced internally last week, more than 1,000 have agreed to participate, Sheppard said.

The September walkout has three Amazon-specific demands.

  1. Amazon should achieve zero emissions by 2030.
  2. Amazon should end Amazon Web Services contracts with fossil fuel companies that facilitate oil and gas extraction.
  3. Amazon should stop funding climate deniers.

The second and third demands grew out of recent news reports, Wired explained. An April investigation by Gizmodo revealed that the Amazon Web Services, which is in charge of cloud computing, was pursuing the business of fossil fuel companies. Then, a July report by The New York Times uncovered that Amazon had put $15,000 towards an event organized by climate-denying think tank the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Amazon employees think their company can do better.

"There's so many tools and capabilities within Amazon that it can really be a leader in this," Twitch product designer Danilo Quilaton told Wired. "That's all I want as an employee of Amazon—to work for a company that's taking climate change seriously and leading the push forward."

In a statement to Wired, the company did not mention the walkout but insisted it was acting on the climate crisis.

"Playing a significant role in helping to reduce the sources of human-induced climate change is an important commitment for Amazon," the company said in a statement emailed to Wired. "We have dedicated sustainability teams who have been working for years on initiatives to reduce our environmental impact."

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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