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Why New Yorkers Don’t Trust Governor Cuomo on Fracking

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Why New Yorkers Don’t Trust Governor Cuomo on Fracking

Nearly 300,000 comments have been submitted on fracking by increasingly concerned New Yorkers.

In October 2011 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo frankly admitted that he had yet to earn his constituents’ trust on fracking.

Why is there still no trust for Cuomo, sixteen months later, on the verge of his big decision whether to give fracking the go-ahead?

If anything, public confidence in New York’s fracking process has dropped since 2011. Nearly three times as many New Yorkers now say they will be very upset if fracking goes forward, compared with the number of their fellow New Yorkers who say that they will be very upset if fracking doesn’t happen.  Forty-nine percent of New Yorkers say fracking poses unacceptable risks to drinking water—only 18 percent disagree.

Why no trust for Cuomo on Fracking? In part, it’s because his regulatory review process has been “an abomination" (as one respected Albany columnist put it last month) in which the public has been “deceived, misdirected and kept utterly in the dark” by state officials. What else can you say when officials rush to publish regulations without first completing legally-mandated health and environmental reviews? And while virtually ignoring fracking’s documented risks to tourism, agriculture and community character?

As for the public’s role in the process: well, when asked whether New Yorkers would have the right to comment on the state’s still-unfinished health review on fracking, the state’s environmental commissioner responded by saying there “may be no need” for public comment on the health review, even as he acknowledged that it is “critical” to the state’s decision-making process. If it’s that important, the public has a right to see it and comment on it, before any decisions are made.

Even worse, this rulemaking process “from hell” is unfolding as new facts keep coming to light about the ways in which fracking damages our air and water and puts public health at risk.  Christopher Portier, director of the federal Center for Environmental Health, recently warned that we don't understand fracking's impact on human health, adding that fracking has been “a disaster” in a number of communities. Recent federal findings show that fracking releases so much methane into the atmosphere it may actually cause more climate disruption than coal or oil.

Is it any wonder that the Governor hasn’t earned the public’s trust on fracking, when his administrative process continues to disenfranchise New Yorkers at the very same time new evidence emerges to show that fracking poses serious and unresolved risks to our health, environment and community character?

New York’s decision on fracking could bring irreversible changes to a huge section of the state, forever altering our way of life, and forever polluting our environment. It’s a decision that should only be made after the most careful and open of reviews—exactly what Cuomo promised, but not what he has delivered.

Governor Cuomo must stand up as a national leader on the environment and climate change by hitting the reset button on fracking. Otherwise, people might just conclude that the process was “rigged” from the start.

 

Sustainable t-shirts by Allbirds are made from a new, low-carbon material that uses a mineral extract from discarded snow crab shells. Jerry Buttles / Allbirds

In the age of consumption, sustainability innovations can help shift cultural habits and protect dwindling natural resources. Improvements in source materials, product durability and end-of-life disposal procedures can create consumer products that are better for the Earth throughout their lifecycles. Three recent advancements hope to make a difference.

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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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