Tag: Biopolitics


Pollution trading – savior or scam?

Humans to Blame for Global Warming
While most people are still prudently changing light bulbs and recycling coffee cups to fight global warming – or at least their gnawing conscience – policy-makers have long moved on to more drastic techniques to cope with the environmental drama.

Under the Kyoto treaty – which came into force in 2005 – industrialized countries agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by an average 5.2% compared with 1990 levels between 2008-2012. As some countries are unable to meet this norm, an international carbon emission trading market was created. Companies investing in projects, such as energy efficiency schemes that reduce emissions in countries such as Russia and China are awarded a credit for each ton of carbon dioxide saved. These can be sold to countries such as Canada, Japan and EU member states that need to reduce their emissions under the protocol.

Back in the economical boom years it seemed like a smart pragmatic theory to view global warming not as a natural, but rather as an organizational disaster and tackle it as such. British economist Nicholas Stern even called climate change “the biggest market failure in history” and carbon trading was supposed to fix that.

Yet, there is also a flipside of the coin: now that environmental values are being incorporated within the economic realm, they are also moving along with regular economical cycles. Thus in concordance with the current economic recession, the price of the EU allowances for carbon emissions has fallen by half since mid-2008. Intended to price fossil fuels out of the market, the system is instead turning them into the rational economic choice: As the economy stagnates, polluting becomes dirt-cheap!

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Liberate the Breast Cancer Genes

breast cancer

On May 12, 2009 the ACLU and the (not-for-profit) Public Patent Foundation, filed a lawsuit, charging that patents on two human genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer are unconstitutional and invalid. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four scientific organizations representing more than 150,000 geneticists, pathologists, and laboratory professionals, as well as individual researchers, breast cancer and women’s health groups, genetic counselors and individual women.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has granted thousands of patents on human genes – in fact, about 20 percent of our genes are patented. A gene patent holder has the right to prevent anyone from studying, testing or even looking at a gene. As a result, scientific research and genetic testing has been delayed, limited or even shut down due to concerns about gene patents.

“Patenting human genes is counter to common sense, patent law and the Constitution,” said Daniel B. Ravicher, Executive Director of PUBPAT and co-counsel in the lawsuit. “Genes are identified, not invented, and patenting genetic sequences is like patenting blood, air or e=mc2.”

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Designer Laura Boffi envisions a future in which human instincts will leap behind on technological progress. For example, once the ‘disease called mortality’ is cured with regenerative medicine, man may start to see death not as a biological event in his life, but as something that may occur to the ‘unlucky on call’.  What would be the implications for our instincts for death?

Will human instincts become object of design, and if so, how would that work? Will there be schools for ‘bioinstinct designers’? Will it be arranged by the government? Or will it be a personal choice, depending on religious and cultural views?

To fuel the debate, Boffi created an incubator in which parents can implant certain instincts in their infant. They could agree on the genetic modification for the sake of the social ecology, depending on their ethical values, or they could go for it to suit natural parents’ concern of protecting their baby.

Attributing a cultural use of the biotechnology, rather than a technical use, Bioinstinct is a project about the way man could cope with his instincts in the age of biotechnology.

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Greener Soccer

soccer tree 01

I’d like to plea for more trees in soccer-stadiums: 1) They add an element of fun to the game; 2) They don’t get aggressive easily; 3) Everyone supports green.

Sebastian Errazuriz: A 10-meter high, real magnoilia tree planted in the center of Chile’s National Stadium where dictator Pinochet tortured political prisoners 30 years ago. During a whole week [somewhere in 2006, red.] the de-contextualized stadium was open to the public as a park. A cathartic soccer match played before 15.000 people, with the tree in the middle was the closure of the piece.

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Children’s Dictionary Dumps ‘Nature’ Words

To make way for modern tech terms such as BlackBerry, blog, voicemail and broadband, the latest edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary has opted to drop terms pertaining to old nature.  No longer can a child check this dictionary and learn more about the blackberry, dandelion, acorn, heron, otter, magpie, sycamore, or willow.

According to Vineeta Gupta, who heads children’s dictionaries at Oxford University Press, changes in the world are responsible for changes in the book. “When you look back at older versions of dictionaries, there were lots of examples of flowers for instance,” she said. “That was because many children lived in semi-rural environments and saw the seasons. Nowadays, the environment has changed.”

The 10,000 words and phrases in the junior dictionary were selected using several criteria, including how often words would be used by young children.

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Controlling the Uncontrollable

i love china
It is a home to crawlers, virusses, search engines, gamers, spammers, chatters, twitters, bloggers, worms and spiders. If calling it alive goes too far, it’s still safe to say that the internet forms a nature of its own. Would the new American president have won the elections if he had ignored its tentacles? How many people would be out of a job if it seized to exist? Internet’s garden is blooming like never seen before, yet some people only enjoy gardens without the weeds.

Article by Michael Bristow, published at news.bbc.co.uk.

China is using an increasing number of paid “internet commentators” in a sophisticated attempt to control public opinion. These commentators are used by government departments to scour the internet for bad news – and then negate it. They post comments on websites and forums that spin bad news into good in an attempt to shape public opinion.

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Wild Systems

Hurricane Control Causes a Storm of Lawsuits

Controlling hurricanes could save lots of lives and dollars. According to a study published in by climate physicist Daniel Rosenfeld, adding dust to Hurricane Katrina’s base could have weakened the storm and sent it spinning away from New Orleans.

However, few scientists believe these new ideas will be tried outside the computer lab anytime soon. The problem isn’t the science. It’s the lawyers. A manipulated storm could destroy towns that otherwise might not have been hit – leading to legal liability issues regardless whether the storm was weakened, or pushed away from a major city. Even if ‘Hurricane Control’ technology would be robust, who decides where to direct a storm?

‘Hurricane Control’ perfectly illustrates how the cultivation of old nature leads to unexpected new menace: The natural disaster ceases to exist, but it is replaced by a political threat.

Now that the scientific papers are published, conspiracy theories are expected to follow soon. Let’s face it: the idea that Hurricane Katrina was secretly guided away from Florida towards New Orleans is rather tempting if you look at the pictures of its path.

I want to emphasize that I do not believe this theory holds; scientist just aren’t far enough. However this newspaper story (pdf), in which one of the hurricane scientists describes how in one early experiment, lawyers advised them to keep silent about their cloud-seeding activities after a storm with which they had been tinkering swerved and battered South Carolina, is rather disturbing to say the least.

Will ‘natural disasters’ soon be exclusively for the poor and powerless?

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