Why the U.N.’s Biodiversity Conference Is So Important – The New York Times

Countries are gathering in an effort to stop a biodiversity collapse that scientists say could equal climate change as an existential crisis.
— Read on www.nytimes.com/2021/10/14/climate/un-biodiversity-conference-climate-change.html

NASA Turns to the Cloud for Help With Next-Generation Earth Missions | NASA

As satellites collect larger and larger amounts of data, engineers and researchers are implementing solutions to manage these huge increases.
— Read on www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/nasa-turns-to-the-cloud-for-help-with-next-generation-earth-missions

A World Without Sci-Hub – Palladium

Aaron Swartz was 26 years old when he took his own life. He did so under the shadow of legal prosecution, pursued by government lawyers intent on maximal punishment. If found guilty, he potentially faced up to 50 years in prison and a $1 million dollar fine. Swartz’s crime was not only legal, but political. He had accessed a private computer network and gained possession of highly valuable information with the goal of sharing it. His actions threatened some of the most powerful, connected, and politically protected groups in the country. Their friends in the government were intent on sending a message.

It’s the kind of story you would expect about some far-off political dissident. But Swartz took his life in Brooklyn on a winter day in 2013 and his prosecutor was the U.S. federal government. When Swartz died, he was under indictment for 13 felony charges related to his use of an MIT computer to download too many scientific articles from the academic database JSTOR, ostensibly for the purpose of making them freely available to the public. Ultimately, Swartz potentially faced more jail time for downloading academic papers than he would have if he had helped Al Qaeda build a nuclear weapon. Even the Criminal Code of the USSR stipulated that those who stored and distributed anti-Soviet literature only faced five to seven years in prison. While prosecutors later pointed toward a potential deal for less time, Aaron would still have been labeled a felon for his actions—and to boot, JSTOR itself had reached a civil settlement and didn’t even pursue its own lawsuit.

But Aaron’s cause lived on. This September marks the ten-year anniversary of Sci-Hub, the online “shadow library” that provides access to millions of research papers otherwise hidden behind prohibitive paywalls. Founded by the Kazakhstani computer scientist Alexandra Elbakyan—popularly known as science’s “pirate queen”—Sci-Hub has grown to become a repository of over 85 million academic papers.

The site is popular globally, used by millions of people—many of whom would otherwise not be able to finish their degrees, advise their patients, or use text mining algorithms to make new scientific discoveries. Sci-Hub has become the unacknowledged foundation that helps the whole enterprise of academia to function. 

Even when they do not need to use Sci-Hub, the superior user experience it offers means that many people prefer to use the illegal site rather than access papers through their own institutional libraries. It is difficult to say how many ideas, grants, publications, and companies have been made possible by Sci-Hub, but it seems undeniable that Elbakyan’s ten-year-old website has become a crucial component of contemporary scholarship.  
— Read on palladiummag.com/2021/09/24/a-world-without-sci-hub/

American Economic Association

Medicaid provides health insurance for millions of America’s most vulnerable people. In 2015, it covered 40 percent of all children at a cost of roughly $90 billion. Some have worried that this price tag is too high. 

But in a paper in the American Economic Review, author Andrew Goodman-Baconasserts that Medicaid coverage for children has more than paid for itself in the long run.

Goodman-Bacon found that Medicaid eligibility in early childhood reduced mortality and disability and increased employment up to 50 years later. As a result, young children in the 1960s and 1970s, who grew up with Medicaid, became healthier adults who paid more work-related taxes and relied less on welfare. 

— Read on www.aeaweb.org/research/charts/childhood-insurance-medicaid-adult-health

EXCLUSIVE Guinea rail builders blast in chimp habitat, no plan to protect apes | Reuters

A Chinese-backed consortium building infrastructure for a massive iron ore mine in Guinea started blasting a railway tunnel in a habitat for a critically endangered chimpanzee species with no plan in place to manage the impact on the animals, company and government statements and satellite imagery show.
— Read on www.reuters.com/world/africa/exclusive-guinea-rail-builders-blast-chimp-habitat-no-plan-protect-apes-2021-08-17/

Opinion | What Does It Mean for a Whole Nation to Become Uninhabitable? – The New York Times

“It’s changing quite rapidly,” says a hunter in Canada. “And I’m not old at all. I’m 31.”
— Read on www.nytimes.com/2021/08/13/opinion/climate-change.html

A ‘Code Red for Humanity’ – The New York Times

The climate emergency is here — and it will get worse before it could get better.
— Read on www.nytimes.com/2021/08/13/podcasts/the-daily/climate-change-IPCC.html

Wildfires rage in Greece and Italy as EU mounts firefighting operation | Wildfires | The Guardian

Week of blazes forces evacuations and brings devastating scale of destruction to large areas of southern Europe
— Read on www.theguardian.com/world/2021/aug/09/wildfires-rage-greece-italy-eu-mounts-firefighting-operation-evacuations-destruction-southern-europe

Algal blooms an emerging threat to clear lakes worldwide | NSF – National Science Foundation

Many of the world’s most iconic clear lakes are degrading at an alarming rate — shallow, nearshore lake bottoms are being carpeted by bright green fronds of slimy algae, especially during the summer. These filamentous algal blooms, known as FABs, need lots of light, so they occur at the same lake edges where people want to swim and play.

Researchers are unsure why FABs are suddenly showing up in remote mountain lakes — as well as in some large lakes such as Lake Tahoe in the U.S., Lake Baikal in Russia and Lake Wakatipu in New Zealand — but an international team of lake scientists is tackling the problem. In a recent paper, they explore how nutrient pollution, climate change, loss of aquatic animals that eat algae, and invasive species are contributing to the increased occurrence of green bottoms.
— Read on www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp

Sri Lanka, Facing ‘Worst’ Marine Disaster, Investigates Cargo Ship Fire – The New York Times

A fire has raged on a cargo ship off the coast of Sri Lanka for 12 days, sending toxic chemicals and tons of plastic into the country’s waters and polluting its beaches.
— Read on www.nytimes.com/2021/06/01/world/asia/sri-lanka-fire-ship-plastic.html