Pufflings can't resist the bright lights of the city

    I haven’t seen puffins in real life very often, but they’re associated with the Farne Islands off the coast of Northumberland, my home county. They’re a bird associated with more northern climes, and are enigmatic creatures.

    It’s both sad and heartening to see that, to save them going extinct in Iceland, locals have to stop them wandering towards the bright lights of human civilization. Instead, they take the baby puffins, which are adorably called ‘pufflings’, and throw them off cliffs to encourage them to fly.

    Natural evolution can’t happen as fast as humans are changing the world, so unless we want to see the absolute devastation of biodiversity on our planet, traditions such as this are going to have to become commonplace.

    Puffling being held by human
    Watching thousands of baby puffins being tossed off a cliff is perfectly normal for the people of Iceland's Westman Islands.

    This yearly tradition is what’s known as “puffling season” and the practice is a crucial, life-saving endeavor.

    The chicks of Atlantic puffins, or pufflings, hatch in burrows on high sea cliffs. When they’re ready to fledge, they fly from their colony and spend several years at sea until they return to land to breed, according to Audubon Project Puffin.

    Pufflings have historically found the ocean by following the light of the moon, digital creator Kyana Sue Powers told NPR over a video call from Iceland. Now, city lights lead the birds astray.

    […]

    Many residents of Vestmannaeyjar spend a few weeks in August and September collecting wayward pufflings that have crashed into town after mistaking human lights for the moon. Releasing the fledglings at the cliffs the following day sets them on the correct path.

    This human tradition has become vital to the survival of puffins, Rodrigo A. Martínez Catalán of Náttúrustofa Suðurlands [South Iceland Nature Research Center] told NPR. A pair of puffins – which mate for life – only incubate one egg per season and don’t lay eggs every year.

    “If you have one failed generation after another after another after another,” Catalán said, “the population is through, pretty much."

    Source: During puffling season, Icelanders save baby puffins by throwing them off cliffs | NPR

    Ungrading the university experience

    There’s some discussion of students ‘gaming the system’ in this article about ungrading university courses, but nothing much about AI tools like ChatGPT. This movement has been gathering pace for years, and I think that we’re at a tipping point.

    Hopefully, this will lead to more Open Recognition practices rather than just breaking down chunky credentials into microcredentials.

    [A]dvocates say the most important reason to adopt un-grading is that students have become so preoccupied with grades, they aren't actually learning.

    “Grades are not a representation of student learning, as hard as it is for us to break the mindset that if the student got an A it means they learned,” said Jody Greene, special adviser to the provost for educational equity and academic success at UCSC, where several faculty are experimenting with various forms of un-grading.

    If a student already knew the material before taking the class and got that A, “they didn’t learn anything,” said Greene. And “if the student came in and struggled to get a C-plus, they may have learned a lot.”

    […]

    [S]everal colleges and universities… already practice unconventional forms of grading. At Reed College in Oregon, students aren’t shown their grades so that they can “focus on learning, not on grades,” the college says. Students at New College of Florida complete contracts establishing their goals, then get written evaluations about how they’re doing. And students at Brown University in Rhode Island have a choice among written evaluations that only they see, results of “satisfactory” or “no credit,” and letter grades — A, B or C, but no D or F.

    MIT has what it calls “ramp-up grading” for first-year students. In their first semesters, they get only a “pass,” without a letter; if they don’t pass, no grade is recorded at all. In their second semesters, they get letter grades, but grades of D and F are not recorded on their transcripts.

    Source: Some colleges are eliminating freshman grades by ‘ungrading’ | NPR

    'Recycling' plastic is an oil industry scam

    This NPR article about the oil industry's cynical manipulation of us when it comes to recycling plastic blew my mind 🤯

    Here's the basic problem: All used plastic can be turned into new things, but picking it up, sorting it out and melting it down is expensive. Plastic also degrades each time it is reused, meaning it can't be reused more than once or twice.

    On the other hand, new plastic is cheap. It's made from oil and gas, and it's almost always less expensive and of better quality to just start fresh.

    Laura Sullivan, How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled (NPR)

    Now that China isn't accepting the world's plastic for 'recycling' (i.e. landfill) domestic initiatives have a problem.

    The industry's awareness that recycling wouldn't keep plastic out of landfills and the environment dates to the program's earliest days, we found. "There is serious doubt that [recycling plastic] can ever be made viable on an economic basis," one industry insider wrote in a 1974 speech.


    Yet the industry spent millions telling people to recycle, because, as one former top industry insider told NPR, selling recycling sold plastic, even if it wasn't true.

    "If the public thinks that recycling is working, then they are not going to be as concerned about the environment," Larry Thomas, former president of the Society of the Plastics Industry, known today as the Plastics Industry Association and one of the industry's most powerful trade groups in Washington, D.C., told NPR.

    Laura Sullivan, How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled (NPR)

    The world really is monumentally screwed every which way at the moment. And I feel like an absolute chump for being in any way enthusiastic about at-home recycling.