Posts by natalieheng

I am a curious and volatile individual willing and wanting to lean and experience all things meaningful, pointless, beautiful and ugly in life.

Data-Jitsu: Dawn of the data journalist

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Here’s an unedited version of my story from June’s World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul this year, published June 9 2015 on Scidev.net :

http://www.scidev.net/asia-pacific/data/scidev-net-at-large/data-jitsu-making-sense-out-of-today-s-large-scale-data.html

By Natalie Heng

At the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul, Korea, a room-full of science communicators are hot on the trail to uncovering how many National Security Agency funded research papers can be found on Google Scholar. “This is not public-information,” our workshop instructor John Bohannon, informs us.

He would know, because he’s tried asking them for it. Even classified information can leave a paper trail however. Bohannon is teaching us how to use Google search terms and common sense to follow digital breadcrumbs.

It isn’t long before most of us figure out that “MDA904” is an NSA grant code prefix, and that including Google quotation marks make all the difference. His point is that there is much journalists can do in today’s digital age, and tricks like ‘web-scraping’ – which basically means mining the internet for useful information, are gateways to immense amounts of data.

Once we complete the workshop exercise, and find 241, 262 and 260 hits respectively for the years 2013, 2012 and 2011 with the exact term “MDA904” on Google Scholar, Bohannon shows us how to go a step further, pulling up a bar chart.

It’s plotted with the number of papers published on Google Scholar every year from the 80s leading up to recent times, based on the inclusion of a variety of NSA grant pre-fixes.

The pattern was obvious: hits for one particular code declined whilst the another increased – a pattern consistent, it seems, with changes in US foreign policy. The chart hinted at the beginnings of a story, and the data on which the bones for that story was based on came from Google Scholar, not some government-issued press release.

As technology moves forward, the amount of data available to us is increasing at a phenomenal rate. Scientists and businesses have been busy figuring out how to harness the potential of this data, Bohannon’s message is: so should journalists.

People like Bohannon are at the forefront of a movement that aims to equip journalists with the skills to make sense of this overwhelming access to data. A regular contributor to publications like Science and Wired, Bohannon is known for writing investigative pieces that make use of large-scale data-analysis.

Lesson number one is: don’t underestimate your Excel Spreadsheet. In our class he gave us the passenger list for the Titanic, and got us to work out the survival rate for passengers with first, second or third class tickets, and how those odds for survival either increased or decreased if you were male or female; a great data-based news article that could be spun around in about an hour if anyone had access to Excel at the time. And a story made all the easier to write if you pick up some simple Excel tricks, like how to use Pivot Tables to organise, analyse and visualise your data.

Some people think webscraping exercises have to involve complicated code. “It doesn’t,” says Bohannon, though there are programs with sophisticated filter systems that can make the job a lot easier; and these are key to wrangling large reams of data.  A neat tip for the modern journalist would be to learn how to use free open-source software programs like IPython, for example.

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Can’t be bothered to manually plug in tedious lists into Excel? IPython will capture source code for web pages, and let you feed uncategorized data (which if copy and pasted, would appear as a mess in Excel) into a program for conversion into tables for analysis.

More importantly however, it makes the processing and analysis of large volumes of data possible, revealing important and telling trends that would simply be impractical for a journalist to do without a bit of computer science on their side.

It’s a revolution in how the lay-person makes use of information, some are calling it “data-jitsu”.

L1060153And the number of journalists making use of “data-jitsu” is growing. Jonathan Stray, one of the facilitators at the Bohannon’s workshop, is a freelance journalist and computer scientist who teaches Computational Journalism at Columbia University. He says that although the data journalism community numbered in the hundreds ten years ago, last year’s National Institute of Computer Assisted Reporting conference attracted almost 2000.

Stray thinks data literacy is, and should be, the future of journalism – especially investigative journalism. “Journalists have a long tradition of disdain for numbers. It’s traditionally a literary tradition right? You went into journalism if you wanted to write a novel. But that’s changing, and it has to change, because the way I think about it our job isn’t really writing, it’s analysis and communication, and getting information.

L1060154And that requires data literacy,” he says. Making sense of data means being able to tackle more complicated things. In fact Stray thinks doing investigative journalism today would be difficult without data work – too many questions today are quantitative.

At any rate, interpreting and communicating data is a basic skill that’s valuable to researchers, policy-makers and business. “Data journalists are just the group of people that want to do that in the public’s interest.”

For more information on data journalism, check out these links: http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/jul/28/data-journalism http://jonathanstray.com/words-and-numbers-in-journalism http://jonathanstray.com/a-computational-journalism-reading-list https://source.opennews.org/en-US/learning/statistically-sound-data-journalism/

Epigenetics – the underlying mechanism of collective mind sets?

When people associate certain group traits …like sociocentric tendencies among people, could these not be propagated, or have a mechanism rooted in epigenetic switches?

Hence certain traits persist quite reliably among certain groups, all inclined to have similar mind sets,…modifiable of course,but primed to react in certain ways….

Is epigenetics the missing link to cultural evolution? An important mechanism underlying the behaviors real traits that create cohesive societies?

Thoughts on Haidt’s elephants and rider analogy, and the idea that reasoning occurs retrospectively.

*Thoughts I had after interviewing Jonathan Haidt for the Star. http://www.thestar.com.my/Lifestyle/Books/News/2015/03/17/Jonathan-Haidt-Man-on-a-mission/

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As we try to make sense of life, we seek solutions and answers.

There is a special confidence reserved for those opinions we espouse with particular conviction, the kind of matters we feel most strongly about.

Take our reactions to the Charlie Hebdo shooting, which sparked many a long Facebook thread.

Robustly constructed arguments about why we should or shouldn’t exercise our right to freedom of expression; were the cartoons which apparently sparked the attacks indeed irresponsible and insensitive and partly to blame for the – granted, grossly disproportionate – wrath that they incurred?

One strand of reasoning that found a gathering audience on the Internet postulated that to continue publishing such cartoons as an act of solidarity and defiance in the face of bullying – in fact reflects an ignorance and arrogance attributable to a mass liberal-western blindness to the hypocritical double standards we hold…we wouldn’t be defending the cartoons with such ferocity had it been about the holocaust would we?

Other reactions were strongly in favor of the freedom to publish, and of the opinion that no matter how tasteless..in a world were freedom to express comes hand in hand with freedom to criticize — the only way yo combat terrorism of thought is to to ensure it we are in no way stifled or cowered..

It was all one big melting pot of opinions, a grand mess of a moral dilemma….

Both arguments when considered independently for me seem as convincing as the other… I don’t know where my feelings fit along this moral conundrum…

In short, I don’t have a real opinion, I just don’t know.

Even if I made it easier for myself and tossed personal principles aside and judged the situation by seeking the most purely practical outcome ( the best strategy to prevent further occurrences in the future)…I still have no idea which would be the ‘righter’ stance.

What if there is no right stance? And …. both have but a 50:50 chance of leading to comparatively favorable outcomes ( avoiding escalation / minimizing future terrorist occurrences / societal tensions)

The complex mixture of random occurrences and sequences of events playing out in vast geographies across continents, individual influencers and incidents, in short there are a million things that could impact the tide of sentiment that’s coming….

Far too many factors and variables for anyone to be informed enough to be certain of having the right answer….

But one can see how there are practical advantages to coming up with a stance or fighting for collective consensus moving forward…

How perhaps, we are wired to come up with a conviction and work hard at proselytizing others to be invested in our stance, because it is the more dominant an idea within a collective consciousness, the greater chance it has on influencing the outcome?

Within the dynamics of an interactive society, having the critical mass to make your maneuver count would be helpful, increasingly its likeliness of having an impact of some sort.

So arguing for it, and having strong opinions make sense, as something we would have evolved to do.

This instinct of trying to figure out where you should stand, what stance seems ‘right’ even if that is an impossible and ridiculous task reminds me of Haidt’s perspective … That reasoning generally occurs retrospectively.

Really, I think life is just a big mess, a maze or gloopy soup of events that are near impossible to keep track of, which we wade through, trying to navigate as best we can.

It’s ok that I don’t know the answer, I don’t think anyone does. It’s like a chess game, and we are just watching where the pieces fall, and making up our own strategy as we go along.

But choices must be made… and my suspicion is that given two options that make sense…. ( like the example above) …. Choices are perhaps arbitrary… However our retrospective reasoning aids in proselytization that strengthens whichever side it is we happen to have ended standing on.

Death

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*A piece of fiction inspired by an interview I did, that made me think about how we think of legacies, and the tragic nature of how we are all a rich story, untold.

 

 

HE WAS smaller than expected. Bent over with age, grumpy. We were seated in plush armchairs, the PR executives hovering over, attentive and cautious. When I asked my first question, his response was: ‘It’s in the book.’
A book I had unfortunately just received I gently and regretfully, informed him.
A little irritation. A fair gripe. But I am here, and the interview must continue. As we carry on, He seems tired. His body is small, frail. It feels shrunken, tiny – overtaken by a world you expect to at some point stop and acknowledge you, all that you have done for it – but carries on nonetheless.
Oblivious. Blind to the toll on those who have served their time.
As we sit there, I feel a little sorry.
I think of my grandmother, whose scattered stories of the war, whose recent loss of her closest companion – a husband who stayed faithfully, lovingly, and affectionately by her sided for over seven decades – sits now in a house that is empty.
Life seems pointless without him – the mirth, the joy, the future stretched miles ahead. Now the road leads nowhere. The dead end approaches. What does life leave for us when all is said and done?
The sum and breadth and color of all our experiences, the epic journey each man takes; what does it all count for when one is left alone, a biopic contained within, known only to ourselves?
All we have left are our memories, and even those begin to fade.
And when they fade, what do we become?
Do we lose ourselves gradually, piece by piece, before the final moment snuffs out the small proverbial pilot flame altogether?
What a strange thought that we move through life, poetry forming.
Us, weaving in and out of each others verses.
Masterpieces influencing masterpieces, before each reaches its final crescendo – a storied monolith, charted with the grooves of inward epiphanies, that can be hewn only through the slow weathering of time.
My grandmother, this man.
I am sitting here, to play a role in the immortalization of his story in words on pen and paper (or keyboard and pixels, perhaps).
To write about a biography that has been published of his life.
It’s true that him and her, they move in different circles.
And it’s also true that these are circles I cannot claim to really know much about – not enough for my conclusions to be worth anything more than flimsy and unreliable assumptions.
Nonetheless my impressions stick with me.
If a monument where to be made their legacy, if all lives snuffed out at the end of days were immortalized in stone: a life-like depiction of their final interaction, capturing their feelings towards the world, his expression would hold a modest smile.
His world, I imagine, is one where titles and privilege are as heavily embedded within his experience of life as the expressions on his statue’s face; and that modest smile would I imagine, be accompanied by a copper plated inscription: Man of many achievements.
Only then, would the statue be complete – with both the understated expressiveness of his smile and the inscription, alluding to the grandness underlying his modesty.
Without the inscription.
I feel his expression would morph.
His face would be frozen in stone with furrowed brows: uncertainly, a little resigned indignation.
Her monument I imagine, would be without a copper plated inscription.
I don’t know if it would be sadness, or the evolution of self that comes with silence that create the final expression, but her internal feelings about her place in the world would yield a fleeting smile.
A captured moment, in between sadness and loss.
Perhaps her immediate response to an audacious Hong Kong celebrity presenter on the television she watched from a bamboo chair next to the television.
Or laughter at something someone said, as she looks up from her stool at the marble table by her late husband’s musky desk, glasses round her neck and broadsheet Chinese newspaper strewn open on the table.
In her world, all that mattered were the simple things.
And though her depression and sadness and vulnerability at her companion’s passing is full of a childlike innocence, she is wiser than most in allowing herself to embrace it.
Despite the grand achievements of the man whose biography I must write about; I imagine her epiphanies, etched in that fleeting smile are deeper in self knowing.
A life of silence, where the joy of family as they come and go, first living, then visiting, moving in and out as their own lives take over – those final years, or decades import a final truth – the impermanence of all things.
This is preparation, the final transformation – the realization that you don’t matter.
The statue, the frozen monument of her, would be a fleeting snapshot in time.
For, I imagine, she expects nothing.
Least of all an acknowledgement from the world at large.
In contrast, the result of a life filled with people; things; moving in circles where the biggest indulgence is humbleness enabled by the reciprocal praise of other titled men: a fading ego lingers in the place of silence.
It is eroding, as all things do with time.
But I imagine the more integral position of self validation through acknowledgement perhaps leaves more room for the subtle creeping emotion of confused indignation.
His reaction to me not having the read the book, makes me feel sorry for him. It reminds me of my father, whose sorrows are drowned in the haze of music and whisky.
The belief that life owes you something, the bitterness at time lost.
I wonder if I will be the same.
I hope that one day, I will find peace, find a rock that allows one to be content with silence, and if I lose that rock first, be as graceful as my grandmother has been in allowing the final, most painful lesson to take place.
The process of discovering that I am alone, truly alone.
That we all are.
And that life’s epic journey is a story that can never truly be known by anyone other than yourself.

A Flash of History : Corlett’s textbook account of South-east Asia

*Something I wrote about a talk I went to so other people can get to experience what I did. L1040610

 

 

Biodiversity : The Southeast Asian story

Most of the audience seems to be made up of scientists, researchers or students from Nottingham – many carted in by bus, presumably from the campus grounds in Semenyih.

We are sitting in a room at Nottingham’s KL Teaching Centre in Chulan Tower, a stones throw from KLCC, ready for a talk hosted by Mindset.

Part of the centre’s objective is to spark discourse on matters of conservation and sustainable development, ‘mainstreaming’ the conversation, giving lay people a way to feel involved.

A couple members of the public – like me, sit among the audience.

I found out about the event through a mailing list I’d signed up for last year during a different talk, hosted by a professor at the university, elephant conservationist Ahimsa Campos Arceiz.

I figured this one – featuring Professor Richard Corlett (one of the most knowledgeable and recognized ecologists in Asia apparently, he’s lived in The region for about 40 years!) would be similarly engaging.

It was.

A textbook

The peg for this little gathering was the launch of a textbook.

Sounds dull, and unless you are an academic the huge 2nd Edition of The Ecology of Tropical East Asia probably isn’t going to make good bed time reading material.

However its content – delivered concisely by the animated Professor made for a riveting hour. (His head had this way of rolling around his clavicles, delivering 180 sweep of the room that reminded me of an ancient and wise Galapagos tortoise!)

Can’t say my memory / notes from the talk are 100% accurate …but because it’s good writing practice, and because I’d like others to get to experience in some fashion what I got to that day, here’s a feature style slice of what happened below :

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Snap shots of history

The professor starts off with a map, an amalgamation of different tectonic places parting and rejoining over millennia; the state of permanence we attach to our surroundings no match for the slow consequential drag of time.

The fact that India is still moving north, and the Himalayas – the tallest mountain range in the world – still growing, seem an elegant illustration that no matter how monumental and looming the iconic landscapes within our memories, cultures and histories, the earth is indecisive; forever moving, reorganizing, shifting, in flux.

A look back at recent ice ages yield a greater sense of how great a change the accumulation of time yields: as ice builds up mostly on land in the northern hemisphere, the sea level drops by as much as 60-120 meters. Land bridges emerge, connecting the Malaysian peninsular, Sumatra, and Borneo.

Technically you could walk from KL to Bali, Corlett informs the room. Though getting to the Philippines, Sulawesi, Lombok and Australia would still require crossing the sea.

About 40,000 – 50,000 years ago, Homo sapiens arrived.

Homo erectus too, were likely present in Java and China, and probably generally scattered throughout the region for a couple million years – though we know little about the impact they had on the environment.

Homo sapiens on the other hand certainly left their mark.

The Niah caves in Sarawak are resplendent with archaeological clues to our ravenous appetites; cave murals and the fossils of animal bones indicate we ate pretty much anything that moved, and anything which didn’t (plants, I mean).

Then rice based agriculture appeared – supposedly spread here from the Shanghai region where it is thought to have been domesticated about 9000 years ago; yam and other crops also spread from the western Guinea region.

And so we continued to evolve, organizationally and culturally – Angkor in present day Cambodia was the largest and most complex urban centre in the world at the time.

It may even have been the biggest pre-industrial complex on earth, according to a recent paper, says Corlett.

Fast forward to two points in recent time:

Satellite images from 1992, and 2012.

After the slow lumbering transitions experienced over its cumulative past, in just 20 years – a mere blink in the eyes of time – Western Malaysia lights up 2000% brighter.

Could there be a more poignant symbolism of the dramatic changes that continue to shape the landscape of South-East Asia?

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People and biodiversity : an inverse relationship?

Plant diversity is pretty accurately depicted by the number of wet days an area experiences in a year, Corlett tells us.

The tropical rainforest of Lambir in Sarawak for example, is one of the wettest places in the world, and most species-rich.

Scientists estimate 1175 tree species.

There are thought to be 1666 in the whole of temperate Europe, Asia and North America combined!

“This ought to be on T-shirt!” He exclaims.

It’s not quite the same for animal species, which show a different pattern.

The highest diversity of birds species is found in the northern margins of the tropics for example, in forests located within India, Myanmar and China. Nobody knows why.

“We just don’t. It’s one of those unanswered questions”, says Corlett.

For now, it remains just another one of the natural world’s many intriguing mysteries.

Science, is a tool we use to chisel away to get at the truth, however by no means does it guarantee us answers – much of what we know is by proxy.

Take the dense, cryptic vastness of the jungle: much of what we know about its inhabitants is based on what they eat.

Digested leftovers, give us clues about the presence, diets and habits of illusive animals.

For the longest time, the stories of wild fauna have been pieced together like a jigsaw.

Vast bodies of knowledge, built upon crude evidence, meticulously collected and studied in a biologists game of detective, with the proverbial magnifying glass swapped for tools of statistical analysis.

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About five millennia ago, tropical East Asia was inhabited by only a few million people. It was almost entirely covered in forest.

That forest supported over 30 large mammal species, with over 12 species inhabiting any one area at a given time.

We think that in total, the region supported 15-25% of global biodiversity, a fact Corlett says will almost certainly have been true for marine species too.

Today, there are over a billion people in tropical East Asia.

About 40% of the land is covered by forest, most of the rest having been logged.

No forest supports all of the large mammal species it did five thousand years ago, many support none at all.

But here’s the thing, it still supports 15-25% of global biodiversity!

And that’s partly because the rest of the world has suffered the same problems.

Corlett points to a slide in the projector: it’s a graph showing the increase in the region’s human population.

One long line stretching out from about ten thousand years ago…looks almost flat, increasing at a shallow gradient.

At the right end of the graph however, the line suddenly launches straight up into an almost vertical reach toward the sky….the great leap from millions to billions.

But it’s not just the numbers that count.
Behavior, enabled by new technologies and influenced by local economies – can vastly intensify the impact a population has on its surroundings.

How much a person consumes, how much energy their lifestyle requires, how much waste they produce…

And Homo sapiens have become ravenous.

Fertilizer improved productivity which allowed consumption to rise, wealth has enabled an intensification of that consumption.

Corlett segways into an anecdote about how rhino hide was used for Chinese armour during the ancient Zhou dynasty.

Historically, all three Asian rhino species were found in southwestern China. By 1933, the last two Javan rhinos remaining there were killed.

*another notable animal currently pushed on to the brink of extinction is the Hainan gibbon, whose numbers range between 23-25 animals, and may end up distinguished as the first ape to be wiped out because of human actions.
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The world is changing.

It’s getting warmer everywhere in the world, but here in tropical East Asia, it’s happening at a slower pace than in the northern hemisphere.

What has intensified are the mood swings in our weather. Patterns have become increasingly irregular, erratic.

Thus far 1998, the year of a strong El Niño has been the hottest year on record.

Climate models predict a temperature rise of 1-2% by 2050, and up to a 2-5% by 2100.

“If current climate models are correct, by 2050 Malaysia will be hotter than its been in 5 million years,” says Corlett.

Other changes have taken place.

Having been in the region for 40 years, Corlett says he’s seen it get richer.

Tropical Asia is no longer a poor region. In fact countries like Malaysia overlap with certain Eastern European countries in terms of wealth.

And as East Asian economies chug along, Corlett would rather this increase in riches translate into a better allocation for conservation, something that hasn’t quite happened yet.

Worldwide, people have been trying out new ideas to add value to the environment.

Technology has fostered a global village, streams of a collective consciousness.

Our ability to reflect upon our past and calculate its import upon our future, has led to the emergence of rough solutions.

Many are At the stages of infancy, getting people to pay for ecosystem services is one option being tested.

The idea Is to raise funds for active conservation measures, or to compensate local opportunity costs for leaving forests alone.

There are many holes in our plans.

We tear our ideas apart, sew them back together in different forms, patch them up.

The possible solutions we have constructed are amateur works in progress… Journeying through the stages all ideas must take before coming into maturity.

Certification systems have been invented to help create markets for sustainably source products.

Programs under organizations like the FAO, UNDP, UNEP, and the UN REDD programme continue to evolve in search of an answer to sustainability.

But even with the resources available, priorities have to be set.

For that we have organizations like the IUCN, which keeps a list – the Red List – documenting the conservation status of different species.

And even with that, many of the species of are classed as ‘data deficient’, which means there isn’t enough information to make an informed guess at how well populations are doing – about 10% haven’t even been evaluated yet.

In response, more solutions are formed, the Red List doesn’t say much about the unique values of different species, so another program, EDGE of Existence, has recently been helping to fill that gap.

They’ve scored the world’s mammals, amphibians, corals and birds according to how Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered they are, this should help set priorities in our conservation efforts.

Efforts are thwarted by kinks in the unequal nature of life; data collection, knowledge, communication and dissemination of constructive ideas…

For example, it might look like number of threatened species listed on Malaysia’s plant list is bad – worse than anywhere else in the region.

In actual fact, this is more likely a reflection of the extensive and good work the Forest Research Institute Malaysia done in identifying and naming threatened species, muses Corlett.

The nuances behind the headlines, can be important.

It is a challenge of modern life – how the bigger picture, a slippery concept that shifts and changes in accordance with access to information is perceived by a global audience most likely to consume their information in bite-sized chunks

Back to Corlett.

He asks the question – what do we need to do?

Establish new protected areas. In the lowlands at least.

“This will have to include more logged forests.”

We also need to improve on existing protected areas, many of which are just ‘paper parks’.

Corlett recounts how a student of his spoke of working in a park with protected status in China.

“Guns could be heard going off every seven minutes, and they’d run into a hunter every half hour,” he says.

Other things that need work: better management of legal logging operations.

Clamp down on illegal hunting.

Take more intense control of the trade of endangered species – something for which there has been minuscule efforts toward, in the region.

Sometimes the challenges go beyond inadequate funding.

Socioeconomics play a role – rangers charged with preventing such crimes are often surrounded desperately poor people.

Patrols have to be made around the clock.

Cat Tien, a park in Vietnam where the last wild Javan rhinoceros known to have existed was shot, was full of other types of hunt-able species: gibbons, green peafowl, and lots of other stuff you don’t see anywhere else.

Though an all out ban is preferable for a Corlett, he says one option is to allow hunting only where it can be controlled – in certain places in the US, permit systems for hunting have worked quite well.

There is also more room for work to be be done outside of forested areas that can contribute to protecting the biodiversity inside, such as encouraging and developing biodiversity-friendly management in rural and farm areas.

And ex-situ stuff; conservation of endangered species through seed banks, germ plasm banks, zoos, breeding centers, botanical gardens and the like.

Re-introductions of species into wild where possible and appropriate, and improved education about the objectives of conservation – especially around protected areas – are also areas we need to improve.

Asia hasn’t been the best at executing all this.

Part of the reason why may relate to the striking contrast between the systems and legislature that have developed around conservation in Europe versus tropical East Asia.

One advantage that Europe has, he says, is that unlike its ASEAN equivalent, the European Union is a supranational entity with enforceable powers.

Hence, a top down look at what needs protecting has led to better monitoring, priority setting and action, Corlett reflects.

you can read more in a paper he wrote titled Becoming Europe: Southeast Asia in the Anthropocene, published in Elementa, Science of the Anthropocene.

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And with that, we had been taken through the last chapter of Corlett’s textbook.

The talk wound up with lively discussion from the audience.

The whole point of Nottinham’s Mindset Talks has been about encouraging cross talk between disciplines.

A question posed about why – aside from moral obligations – we should protect biodiversity (asked I thought, with sincerity from the angle of someone wanting to know how these ideas could be sold to those without the same level of interest in these subject matters) seemed to illustrate this point.

Corbett reacted with sheer honesty : “I don’t know.”

In all frankness, he said, the need to protect our forests and the astounding and awe-inspiring diversity of life contained within just seemed, too obvious.

Which is why getting geographers, economists, sociologists, finance experts and all the divergent fields we can get, sitting in a room together and discussing things like this is so important.

Protecting nature doesn’t have to be a zero sum game, but many of those driven by passion to study it, and protect it, need help from those who think differently from them.

There are plenty of solid, valid arguments for protection that have nothing to do with ‘values’, we just need to figure out how best to communicate and streamline them into decision making processes.

Environmental accounting. Ecosystem service valuation. These need to be the new buzzwords.

And drawing in multiple stakeholder perspectives will be crucial in the coming years if we are make sense of and find holistic solutions to the global challenges we face.

In this sense, Mindset’s objective is to create a space where sociologists – engineers – economists – biologists and the general public at large, can come and hear experts discuss things that both interest and matter to them is a wonderful and much needed initiative, I think.

It’s what we need to help not just the general public, but different academic factions move away from the silo-based approaches often adopted in dealing with global challenges – so frequently boxed within the purview of a specific discipline or government agency.

Agriculture, biodiversity, development, income generation, the economy; these are often seen as having to progress at the expense of each other.

They are not, they are the puzzle pieces for which we need to figure out a best fit, within the larger, more complicated patchwork of interlinked issues.

You can watch Nottingham’s Mindset Talks by visiting their You Tube channel where all previous events are posted for public viewing:

https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCW-m_y_CfncTZwCfiWXQKyg