Category Archives: environmental change

Antiques as HazArt (Mercury)

Mercury used to be part of the preservation technique in museums, as a bug killer. This makes analyzing museum specimens for environmental change difficult (pre- and post-industrial; regional ecological change in water, temperature, etc over time using stable nuclides; etc.) There was an interesting study on Berlin museum specimens (feathers) for mercury pollution in the urban environments some 20 years ago. [References in deep storage, I’m afraid. And NIH, DOE, and NSF have never been interested in funding chemical ecology modelling of long-term human environmental change made possible via stable nuclides.] I have another reference I will find about the hazards of handling museum specimens which have been curated in the outmoded manner for pest control and not for environmental heritage.

CDC: Antiques Can Pose Mercury Hazard from the Miami Herald (Registration Required)

ALBANY, N.Y. — Careful with that antique clock. It could pose a mercury hazard. The silvery, skittering, and toxic liquid can be found in some antiques. Mirrors can be backed with mercury and tin; Clock pendulums might be weighted with embedded vials of mercury; and barometers, thermometers and lamps may have mercury in their bases for ballast.

The problem is that mercury in old items can leak, particularly as seals age or when the items are moved, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ask Ann Smith, whose heirloom clock’s pendulum leaked mercury onto the carpet of her gift store in rural Delhi, N.Y., as a cleaner moved it. An attempt to vacuum the tiny silver balls off the carpet only made things worse, requiring a hazardous materials team to be dispatched to Parker House Gifts and Accessories last summer.

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Beautiful Bethel beaches

Beautiful Bethel beaches

First inhabitants were told by the first people not to set up a permanent residence on this bank. They didn’t listen then or now. Many people still think throwing heavy metal contaminated vehicles into a river will save their skivvies.

Beautiful Bethel beaches B

| Where is… Bethel coastline 22nd century |

Beautiful Bethel postcard courtesy of Tom Sadowski and Jimmie Froehlich
Go to where you can click on the “postcards” link.

There, I would like to say would be many postcard stories with which to regale yourself. However, the postcard link does not work because I haven’t even started on that page!

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50 reasons not to change

small 50 reasons
It’s amazing just how many languages (and dichos) would fit this. I first ran across this in New Mexico in 1991 very apropos at that time RE: women in the highway and environment departments. The specific source is in deep storage (still) but I’m hoping the creator will recognize it and let me know.

In Alaska I’ve heard, “you’re too thoughtful” and “you can’t expect them to understand…”

View the comments for other suggestions or to add your own. Also, the comments contain trackbacks to interesting sites.

Please note that this image has a copyright, for non-commercial distribution with attribution.
Creative Commons License

Click the title below to enlarge. It should print well on 8.5 by 11 paper for handouts.

If you’d like to display a thumbnail, copy the thumbnail below to your site and code it like this

<a href="; title="50 reasons not to change source"><img src="; click to see original</a>

small 50 reasons
<p><a href="; from MP Bumsted, Biocultural Science & Management</p>

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Pay for performance

What is supposed to work in schools, similarly with alcohol control and Wall Street, seems to operate on belief rather than an examination of what is and then formulating testable ideas on what, if anything, needs doing. Belief is an important factor in “what works”. However, critical thinking and careful use of statistics, among other attributes of sciencing such as multiple working hypotheses, are important to keep us all honest. In the situation of pandemic fatal or crippling disease, wishful thinking or “denial” won’t keep us, at all.


Advocates of using pay to improve teacher performance grow excited over the addition of federal money to supplement local district pay incentives. But maybe they shouldn’t. Contrary to other provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), there is little research to demonstrate that paying a few teachers more will improve student performance. […]

Alaska perspective

Understanding what is right and wrong with the current institutional environment would seem, therefore, to be the key to understanding why spending and performance are not positively correlated.

Binge drinking, not alcoholism

* Many people assume that most people who drink to excess are probably alcoholics.
* A recent survey of 4,761 New Mexico adults found that while 16.5 percent drank alcohol in excess of national guidelines, only 1.8 percent met criteria for alcohol dependence.
* This suggests that a majority of persons at risk for alcohol-related problems are not alcohol dependent.

Most people realize that too much alcohol can lead to multiple health problems, injuries and violence. Numerous statistics support the accuracy of this perception. Many people also assume that a substantial proportion of people who drink to excess are probably alcoholics. This may not be accurate. A recent study of the general population in New Mexico reveals that, in fact, most alcohol-related problems may be due to excessive drinking – especially binge drinking – among persons who are not alcoholics.

The irresistible power of magical thinking

New research demonstrates that habits of so-called magical thinking — the belief, for instance, that wishing harm on a loathed colleague or relative might make him sick — are far more common than people acknowledge.

even at Los Alamos National Laboratory (UC-LANS UC-LANL) and Congress

The representatives love to lash out at Los Alamos without ever addressing the really important problems facing the lab.

They call for more security, more bureaucracy, more procedures, more manuals and more oversight. This was a tradition started by former director Pete Nanos who shutdown the lab for six months to “fix it”. Somehow this culture of “more” is meant to lead an efficient, lean lab.

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Nuclear Winter transmittal letter

This really belongs with the post but I only just located it.


DATE: May 8, 1986

Chemistry Division


The enclosed document, NUCLEAR WINTER: THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF HUMAN SURVIVAL, may be of interest to you as a professional in [public communication] [or public policy] . These proceedings result from an invited session of the American Anthropological Association annual meetings held in Washington, DC, December 6, 1985. The scientific session was an interdisciplinary discussion among senior anthropologists, a physical scientist involved in global climate modelling, and myself of the contributions anthropology can make to the scientific discussion of the long-term consequences of nuclear war.

Current scientific discussions of the long-term environmental consequences of nuclear war only partially evaluate the impact on human existence and continuity. Anthropologists are generally not participants in the institutional communities or other sciences which provide the scientific and technical advice on issues of national defense. Anthropology can contribute its expertise concerning the cultural and biological adaptability of humans and the comprehensive nature and evolution of human existence.

An audience of approximately 100 anthropologists and others participated in the discussions. This session is the first and remains the only discussion of Nuclear Winter to focus explicitly on impacts to humans. Other discussions have focused on the non-human environment or on limited aspects of human society which can result in misleading or inaccurate conclusions about effects on human biological and cultural systems.

Discussion also ranged over whether such matters should be discussed at all, the roles of science and policy in contemporary US society, the nature of uncertainty, the need for anthropological models of nuclear winter comparable to the physical models, and the value of anthropological assessment and input to discussions of nuclear war.

We consider our discussions beginnings, not conclusions, to an anthropological assessment of Nuclear Winter. There are as yet no formal, integrative studies of the long-term consequences of Nuclear Winter for humans by public or private agencies.

If you wish further information on this topic, please contact the authors.


M. Pamela Bumsted

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