Paul E McGinniss
Wow! A music video by Korean pop star Psy is watched worldwide by more than one billion people. Imagine if a billion plus people joined forces to help solve the world's most pressing problems.
Think it's possible? Recently, I co-organized a community screening of Chasing Ice, a mesmerizing film about global warming and the melting arctic. During post screening discussions about the frightening implications of climate change, everyone, young to old, right to left, had similar questions.
How do we address climate change? What steps can individuals, businesses and world leaders take to address the most pressing and often interrelated problems facing us, such as water and energy challenges?
Chasing Ice producer, Paula DuPre' Pesmen, Skyped in from Boulder, Colorado. Live on screen, she spoke with our engaged audience, all of whom were blown away by the film and hungry for dialog.
In answer to the questions on how to address our pressing challenges, Pesmen said something simple yet profound: “We all need to take what we are best at and apply that talent to solving the world's problems.”
Within six degrees of separation, our mutual networks can inspire and build momentum. It's already happening. My editor at EcoWatch, Stefanie Spear, is media savvy and a passionate advocate so she started a grassroots environmental media platform inspiring millions to take action to protect the environment. Actor Matt Damon found it unacceptable that so many people lacked access to clean water so he started a charity, Water.org, which has transformed communities in Africa, South Asia and Central America by providing access to safe water and sanitation. After witnessing deplorable conditions at a Nigerian hospital, including sporadic electricity which impaired maternity and surgical care, Dr. Laura Stachel and her husband, Hal Aronson, co-founded WE CARE Solar to bring off-grid electric solar systems to hospitals in regions without reliable electricity.
What we need ASAP in pursuit of a "collective seoul"—pun intended—is to manifest a worldwide "Psy of Relief." Unified, we need to save the world Gangnam Style. Create a phenomena—of us—to viral out everywhere and break into a global dance of action to change the world in a rave that never stops and never disappears.
I’m thinking of putting an ad on Craigslist to find our “Psy of Relief.”:
Desperately Seeking World Savior. Looking for undiscovered ecowarrior entertainer with Gangnam Style to engage world collective seoul (sic). Must travel to refugee camps, stay composed and look fashionable under extreme weather situations. Have understanding of world energy needs, water issues, dance and sing at least a bit, and tweet like there's no tomorrow.
If you've got the right EcoSwag and my ad sounds like you, please email. Remember, YOLO. There's a great job waiting for you. In fact, if anyone is interested in solving the world's challenges, there's more than one job open. Anyone who takes the time to apply themselves, the job is yours.
Author's note: This post is entered in the Masdar “Engage: The Water-Energy Nexus blogging contest. Please vote for me with 5 Stars on the competition web site. You can also help by liking and tweeting this post above. The contest winner will be invited to Abu Dhabi to cover Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.
Paul E McGinniss is The New York Green Advocate. He is a green building consultant and real estate broker in New York. He is pretty much obsessed with all things environment and has lately become a resiliency addict. Follow McGinniss @PaulEMcGinniss.
The growing Texas solar industry is offering a safe harbor to unemployed oil and gas professionals amidst the latest oil and gas industry bust, this one brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Houston Chronicle reports.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>