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Whooping It Down

I was reading a short piece this morning wherein the author was making an observation that it is really hard to get a government official to tell him what their estimates for the whooping crane population. There are less than 300 of them in California as I understand it. The government used to do an actual field count to determine the population but now they seem to be relying on “hierarchical distance sampling.” There is apparently massive uncertainty in the number.

Anyhow, the author is a very worried that wind turbines are having an adverse impact on these (and other) bird populations. I’m not much into conspiracy theories, but it would seem to me to be downright awful press for a government and “E”nvironmental movement to find out that wind turbines are harming critical species. The IRS attacks on conservative groups don’t inspire much confidence that such things are beyond the pale.

My prediction is this, however. Regardless of how this turns out, the non-“E”nvironmentalists will be to blame. If it indeed is true that wind kills precious bird species, then there is no doubt in my mind that the story will be, “We needed to put up wind because the planet was placed in catastrophic peril by non-“E”nvironmentalists. The wind turbines are preventing climate devastation and it is only because of our addiction to fossil fuels that we wiped out the California Condor, the Indiana brown bat, the Whooping Crane and other birds.”

Good luck finding the answers you seek Mr. Shaw. For those interested in avian health and conservation and enjoyment, I recommend following the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

  • In other news,the decline of the academy continues. Given that dustup, I wonder what the fallout would be if I published a paper that argued that women were smarter than men, or that women in some subsample had higher natural IQs than men? If one examines this data, you might be tempted to at least want to ask if there is anything to that observation. Finally, I can take ANY subsample and basically conclude just about anything I want about them. But it requires kids to actually learn math from grades K-12 to be able to comprehend this. 
  • In other news, it looks like another study finds that microfinance does not do much to reduce poverty. Let me ask somewhat rhetorically (this coming from someone who once in his career wrote a fairly laudatory piece on Grameen), does it sound plausible that advancing credit on very small scales collateralized by trust is a way to get countries out of a poverty trap that has existed for centuries? I’d suggest the way to think about microfinance is as short-term aid – helpful, but not world changing. (It does sound “cool” though and I think that is some of the reason for its popularity among Westerners)
  • Albany is not New York City. Harrisburg is neither Philly nor Pittsburgh.

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