to soil erosion and landslide risk. Some
84% of the world’s existing 9.9 million
hectares of rubber trees are in Southeast
Asia, and global rubber consumption will
likely grow 3.5% annually, the team found.
But there may be hope: Sustainability
certification schemes have reduced the
negative impacts of oil palm and paper
and pulp growing. A similar effort for
rubber, the Sustainable Natural Rubber
Initiative, launched its pilot phase in
Anger over ‘consensus center’
PERTH, AUSTRALIA | The Australian government has again angered the country’s
scientists by announcing it will contribute
$4 million toward a new center to be built
at the University of Western Australia’s
Business School in collaboration with
the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a
Massachusetts-based think tank created
and directed by controversial environmental author Bjørn Lomborg. Lomborg has
crossed swords with scientists for his views
on mitigating climate change. “In the face of
deep [funding] cuts to … scientific research
organisations, it’s an insult to Australia’s
scientific community,” said Australia’s
Climate Council, a nonprofit science and
outreach center established by scientists
after the Australian government shuttered
its climate change commission in 2013. The
Australian Consensus Centre will focus on
the economic implications of agriculture,
aid, and global development, according to a
university official, but not climate change.
In March of 1970, forestry graduate
student Doug Scott of the University of
Michigan helped create a massive, 5-day
“Teach-in for the Environment.” The
teach-in was a precursor to the first Earth
Day on 22 April, an environmental activism event founded by Wisconsin Senator
Gaylord Nelson that drew 20 million
people across the United States.
Q: Ecologist Barry Commoner, once
called the “Paul Revere of ecology,” was
there; what role did he play?
A: Our kickof event … overflowed a
14,000-person basketball arena. The event
started with the cast of Hair and had
Nelson and the governor of Michigan.
Commoner was the central speaker. [But]
he was a college professor, not used to
speaking in front of the hot lights where
you couldn’t see the audience.
Q: What happened during the teach-in?
A: We basically took over the campus for
5 days. Hundreds of people turned out to
help organize. Professors devoted class
time to the topic of the environment.
Q: Why did science students lead the charge?
A: I suppose we were paying more attention
to the impact that man was having on the
environment. But the whole university
got involved. The law school hosted a 2-day
symposium about what was then the
cutting-edge topic of environmental law. You
had to be pretty dedicated to your studies to
not know what was going on and join in.
Science funding head exits
The head of Portugal’s science funding
agency, biomedical researcher Miguel
Seabra, stepped down this month amid
mounting criticism of his agency’s
policies. The Foundation for Science and
Technology (FCT) angered researchers in
January 2014 when it announced a sharp
drop in state-funded Ph.D. and postdoc-
toral fellowships. Seabra also oversaw a
controversial evaluation of the country’s
R&D units, announcing in June 2014 that
22% of the 322 evaluated units would
lose their funding due to poor ratings,
and another 26% would see their budgets
reduced to “core funding.” Critics slammed
the evaluation process as neither robust
nor transparent. Crystallographer Maria
Arménia Carrondo, a former adviser to
FCT’s board, will take over from Seabra,
the Ministry of Education and Science
announced last week, but some fear her
close connection to Seabra means that no
drastic change is likely to happen.
Festival aims to make math fun
High-fives and wild laughter were plentiful at the United States’ first National Math Festival. The festival, held on 18 April in Washington, D.C., aims to help kids and adults see the beauty and wonder of math, says David Eisenbud, director of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) in Berkeley, California. “People don’t really understand what mathematics is about, and if they understood it they would all like it as much as I do.” MSRI co-organized the festival with the
Institute for Advanced Study and in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution.
Children made Möbius strips, gaped at mathematical card tricks, and clutched balloon
octahedra in lieu of balloon animals. In a race called the “Oobleck Olympics,” teams
competed to pour water out of jugs—sped up by swirling the bottle to create a vortex,
as shown—while cornstarch and water on a speaker danced to the beat of music.