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To Change Everything We Need Everyone

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To Change Everything We Need Everyone

The slogan of the 300,000+ People’s Climate March that rolled over Manhattan like a tsunami yesterday, “To change everything we need everyone” was embodied not only in the raw numbers—larger than the 1963 March for Jobs and Justice led by Martin Luther King—but also in the incredible diversity of the crowd and the organizations participating, and the careful structuring of its building blocks.

There were separate staging and rallying locations for front line communities, labor, churches and civic groups, anti-mining, drilling and fracking activities, environmentalists pursuing climate solutions like renewable energy. Put together these blocks told a story—of the way in which each one of these tribal communities can be part of a bigger climate movement. The media coverage, of course, missed the granularity of this organizing structure—but couldn't help be influenced by it. The lead voice in the New York Times story was not Bill McKibben, Al Gore or Ban ki-Moon, but Carol Sutton of the Connecticut teacher’s union.

But while the entire story didn't make it onto the front page, it was laid out intentionally and clearly for the 300,000 participants—making this rally far more of an educational and explanatory exercise than any protest march I've previously witnessed.

The Secretary General’s act in joining this march—whose expressed purpose was to apply pressure to the nations gathering at the UN Climate Summit this week—was still extraordinary and unprecedented, as well as alarming. In effect, he was publicly calling out his bosses, the UN member nations, for inadequate leadership on climate.

Underneath it all, making this day possible, was the terrible tragedy of Hurricane Sandy. Sandy has impacted this metropolitan region far more deeply than similar climate tragedies in other regions, making a climate movement a reality here more deeply even than in ostensibly greener California. I can’t for example, imagine a climate rally in San Francisco in which a building super, representing SEI Local 32BJ, proclaimed that every building his colleagues come into they find ways to reduce energy consumption.

But while consciousness and nascent movement building are deeper here than in California, policy lags. So my guess is that Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s announcement that NYC would cut emissions 80 percent by 2050 will only be the first of a series of climate solution milestones to come out of this region.

The People’s March is not the only fertile idea spawned by Ban ki-Moon’s decision to call this summit. Cornell’s school of labor relations hosted a deep dive by global trade leaders into the question of how the coming transition from the age of fossil fuels to the age of clean energy can be made democratic and publicly accountable in a way that coal and oil never were. C40, the global consortium of major cities working on climate chaired by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hosted a glittering awards ceremony to showcase the best ideas emerging from urban ingenuity. The 10 winners span the globe. San Francisco’s Zero Waste program is up there with Rio’s Sustainable Cities initiatives and Singapore’s Intelligent Transit.

Cities are, in my view, going to be the game breaker. They will, for the first time, house far more than  half of humanity by 2050; they are enormous energy consumers but not very big producers, the natural gas coming out from under the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport notwithstanding. So the politics of a transition off ever more expensive and dangerous carbon fuels is right for them, and they are the center of knowledge aggregation and connection—the key ingredient to finding ways to meet the world’s energy needs without continuing to mine and release fossil carbon.

So, yes, I think this summit will be seen as a game changer for climate. And the fact that it took place in New York is not accidental.

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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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