Green Economy Offers Hope to Former Inmates
Green For All released a report Sept. 28—Green Strategies to Re-Entry—detailing how the formerly incarcerated can find work in the green economy.
One-in-four adult Americans has a criminal record of some kind. Millions were once incarcerated. Four-in-ten recently released inmates return to prison within three years. The re-entry population is facing the same bad economy as the rest of the nation—but with significant disadvantages.
At a press event in Indianapolis in partnership with Congressman André Carson and RecycleForce—one of the programs discussed in the report—Green For All outlined the opportunities present in the green economy. The report, available here, outlines job potential in high-demand green sectors, best practices of re-entry programs and public policies that can promote fair opportunities for people with criminal histories in the emerging green economy. Case studies are included throughout to promote deeper understanding of the issues.
"RecycleForce is putting people to work while helping build a green economy that will lead to even more jobs," said Congressman Carson. "That’s building a future for everyone, regardless of their pasts."
"The green economy—2.7 million workers strong, according to the Brookings Institution—is home to some of the fastest growing sectors of the American economy," said Green For All CEO Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins. "We have the chance to give our economy a fresh start, and the opportunity to provide the same thing to the formerly incarcerated."
Some findings from the report include:
- The U.S. incarcerates 2.25 million people, or 23 percent of the world’s prison population.
- 28 percent of Americans have a criminal record of some kind, according to UC Berkeley’s National Employment Law Project.
- Those with criminal histories have several times the rate of unemployment as the general population, and those who find work see an 11 percent wage reduction.
- Vocational training while incarcerated and post-release has a significant impact on recidivism rates. Transitional jobs programs can reduce that rate by 40 percent.
- The fast growth and low barrier to entry presented by green jobs programs provide an ideal transitional environment. The Brookings Institution notes that the green sector employs more people lacking a college education than the economy on the whole.
"With the growth and success of RecycleForce, we've always believed that the green economy offered tremendous employment potential for ex-offenders," said Gregg Keesling, president of RecycleForce. "The report puts that potential in a national context, providing evidence that the clean energy sector is unique for the opportunity it creates to teach new skills and provide a career path in a growth industry for people re-entering society from prison."
For more information, click here.
Green For All is a national organization dedicated to improving the lives of all Americans through a clean energy economy. The organization works in collaboration with the business, government, labor and grassroots communities to create and implement programs that increase quality jobs and opportunities in green industry, all while holding the most vulnerable people at the center of its agenda. For more information, please visit www.greenforall.org.
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.
"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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