Video: Olayemi Olurin on the many reasons to hate Eric Adams

There’s a line that I often here from conservatives, about all the crime and poverty in “Democrat-run cities”. Leaving aside the fact that gun deaths are higher, per person, in rural areas than in urban ones, this argument makes rather a lot of assumptions about the Democratic party as a whole, and about the Democrats running cities, in particular. I’ve made my gripes with that party and its leadership known on this blog, but when it comes to mayors, there are all the normal corporate pressures, plus pressure, and even threats, from city police departments. In general, mayors and city counsels are more likely to serve the interests of those with power, than of their constituency.

And then you have people like NYC mayor Eric Adams, who IS a cop, even though it’s been a while since he was actually on the force. There also doesn’t seem to be much reason to believe that he was one of those mythical “good cops” we keep hearing about. As you’ll soon hear, he seems to have been drawn to policing for the power, more than anything else. I’ve talked before about this guy, and his horrific policies, but there is a lot more to cover, and thankfully we have Olayemi Olurin, movement lawyer and news commentator, to break down all the reasons why she hates Eric Adams, and why you should too.

Biden Is Tying Himself to Unions, and That’s a Good Thing

There’s a subset of left-wing people on Twitter, who seem to have fallen for the seductive trap of cynicism. Unless you’re an accelerationist, if you’re on the left and you want to see the world get better, an increase in union strength is a good thing, and actions by people in power that aid that empowerment are also good. I don’t think that Joe Biden is a reliable ally of unions, but it is, without question, a good thing that he showed up at the picket line. Even if you think it’s a cynical ploy, it should be celebrated, because the more Biden and the Democrats see their success as tied to unions, the more likely they are to support them, and maybe even get over the scare that Reagan gave them.

When I wrote about the Cemex decision this time last month, I closed by saying that it’s important to take advantage of the current pro-union climate while it exists. There is zero doubt in my mind that the federal government will turn hostile to unions once again, and the stronger they get now, the better they will be able to fight back against efforts to break them. If we want to the favorable conditions to last as long as possible – which I do – it would be good for Democrats to win in 2024.

It’s nice to be able to say that without much of a caveat. On some issues, it’s more about opposing the GOP agenda of destruction, but at the moment, the Democrats are actually enacting policy that benefits worker power. Standing still is better than going in the wrong direction, but right now, we’re actually making progress. Most of that is due to workers dedicating their limited free time, energy, and money to building a labor movement, but some of it is absolutely due to changes made by the Biden administration, and it’s pretty clear that if Trump gets back into power, he’ll be just as anti-worker as he has always been:

Trump’s appointees were far more pro-business than pro-worker. He named a string of corporate water carriers to the National Labor Relations Board who often seemed to see their role as undermining unions and making it harder for workers to unionize. Trump’s NLRB appointees said, for instance, that gig economy workers like Uber and Lyft drivers should be considered independent contractors, not employees, thus preventing them from unionizing under federal law.

Trump’s appointees to the supreme court have shown scant sympathy toward workers and outright hostility toward unions. Remember that Neil Gorsuch once ruled that a truck driver deserved to be fired for disobeying his boss’s order and leaving his broken-down vehicle in sub-zero weather – a move that probably saved the driver’s life. It was Gorsuch who delivered the deciding vote in the 5-4 Janus v AFSCME case – the most important anti-union decision in decades. In that ruling, the court’s rightwing majority said that teachers, firefighters and other government employees couldn’t be required to pay any dues or fees to the unions that bargained for them and won raises for them.

All this makes clear that Trump’s claim that he “always” has workers’ back is laughable. Labor leaders should issue a warning: workers of the world, unite against Trump’s con.

What else would you expect from a capitalist born into a real estate empire? More than that, the conservative agenda that’s currently making waves, Project 2025, would be an unmitigated disaster for working people, and probably the world:

In truth, the program laid out by Dans and his fellow Trumpers, called Project 2025, is far more ambitious than anything Ronald Reagan dreamed up. Dans, from his seat inside The Heritage Foundation, and scores of conservative groups aligned with his program are seeking to roll back nothing less than 100 years of what they see as liberal encroachment on Washington. They want to overturn what began as Woodrow Wilson’s creation of a federal administrative elite and later grew into a vast, unaccountable and mostly liberal bureaucracy (as conservatives view it) under Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, numbering about two and a quarter million federal workers today. They aim to defund the Department of Justice, dismantle the FBI, break up the Department of Homeland Security and eliminate the Departments of Education and Commerce, to name just a few of their larger targets. They want to give the president complete power over quasi-independent agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission, which makes and enforces rules for television and internet companies that have been the bane of Trump’s political existence in the last few years.

And they want to ensure that what remains of this slashed-down bureaucracy is reliably MAGA conservative — not just for the next president but for a long time to come — and that the White House maintains total control of it. In an effort to implement this agenda — which relies on another Reagan-era idea, the controversial “unitary theory” of the Constitution under which Article II gives the president complete power over the federal bureaucracy — Dans has formed a committee to recruit what he calls “conservative warriors” through bar associations and state attorneys general offices and install them in general counsel offices throughout the federal bureaucracy.

They very much intend to end any semblance of democracy in the United States, and I can’t fault people for wanting to vote against that. Fortunately, Biden is also, currently, giving at least some real reason to vote for him. This is not an endorsement, and I don’t think the UAW should endorse him until well after they’ve won their current strike action. Biden’s still bad on a number of issues, from fossil fuel extraction, to water privatization, to debt, but I think it’s important to recognize that Biden has actually been attempting to live up to his boast of being the most pro-union president ever, and that’s turning out to be a good thing for everyone.

His appearance at the UAW picket line was an easy thing to do, but it’s something none of his predecessors have done, and it loaned the “bully pulpit” of the presidency to Shawn Fain and the workers. More than that, his NLRB is actually wielding power on behalf of workers, and his FTC is suing Amazon for building a monopoly. The Democrats will not give us revolutionary change, but it seems indisputable that they are currently making it far easier to do the work of getting it for ourselves.

If you think that I should be paid better, you can help with that at It’s currently my only source of income, and while I am forever grateful to my patrons, the “crowd” part of my crowdfunding is looking a bit thin. Even a small monthly contribution helps!

Zoe Bee on the Real Meaning of “Parents’ Rights”

My brain has been much more interested in working on the novel recently, so I’m just going to roll with that for a bit, which means a bit less effort put in here. Still, there’s plenty of important stuff to think about, and there are always videos worth watching.

I don’t know if it’s more of a thing than it used to be, but conservative groups these days really seem to love hiding their meaning with euphemisms and vague language. It’s not that they hate trans people, they just have concerns about women’s rights! It’s not that they want to destroy public education, they just want school choice. It’s not that they view children as property, they’re just concerned about parents’ rights.

As Zoe Bee discusses in the video below, the current “parents’ rights” movement revolves around the notion that parents own their children, in a very material sense. This stuff is mostly centered on the effort to erase sexuality, gender, or sex education from school, but it goes a lot farther, with parents believing they have the right to hit their children, or even hire someone to brainwash them, if they start believing the wrong things. This kind of stuff is genuinely chilling, and it really shows the degree to which children are not considered people in their own right. Rather than guardianship and responsibility, these people seem to view parenthood as the opportunity, bought by the money spent raising a child, to create a person in your own image, whether they want that or not.

Central Brain Not Required for Learning

I know that jellyfish have more going on than just drifting around till they run into food, but I think I’m not alone in viewing their intelligence as being roughly nonexistent. It never seemed as though there would be any particular point in a jellyfish being able to learn something. Apparently, however, I was wrong. Jellyfish, at least some kinds, are capable of learning:

Even without a central brain, jellyfish can learn from past experiences like humans, mice, and flies, scientists report for the first time on September 22 in the journal Current Biology. They trained Caribbean box jellyfish (Tripedalia cystophora) to learn to spot and dodge obstacles. The study challenges previous notions that advanced learning requires a centralized brain and sheds light on the evolutionary roots of learning and memory.

No bigger than a fingernail, these seemingly simple jellies have a complex visual system with 24 eyes embedded in their bell-like body. Living in mangrove swamps, the animal uses its vision to steer through murky waters and swerve around underwater tree roots to snare prey. Scientists demonstrated that the jellies could acquire the ability to avoid obstacles through associative learning, a process through which organisms form mental connections between sensory stimulations and behaviors.

“Learning is the pinnacle performance for nervous systems,” says first author Jan Bielecki of Kiel University, Germany. To successfully teach jellyfish a new trick, he says “it’s best to leverage its natural behaviors, something that makes sense to the animal, so it reaches its full potential.”

The team dressed a round tank with gray and white stripes to simulate the jellyfish’s natural habitat, with gray stripes mimicking mangrove roots that would appear distant. They observed the jellyfish in the tank for 7.5 minutes. Initially, the jelly swam close to these seemingly far stripes and bumped into them frequently. But by the end of the experiment, the jelly increased its average distance to the wall by about 50%, quadrupled the number of successful pivots to avoid collision and cut its contact with the wall by half. The findings suggest that jellyfish can learn from experience through visual and mechanical stimuli.

“If you want to understand complex structures, it’s always good to start as simple as you can,” says senior author Anders Garm of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. “Looking at these relatively simple nervous systems in jellyfish, we have a much higher chance of understanding all the details and how it comes together to perform behaviors.”

I never thought I’d be worried about the mental wellbeing of a jellyfish, but it seems that part of this research did involve “isolating” eyes and connecting them to electrodes to measure their reaction to things. If I’m honest, I would have felt bad for the jellyfish before learning that they can learn from their experiences.

On the brighter side, apparently these people can now add “training jellyfish” to their list of skills and accomplishments. Being able to learn is incredibly useful, so in that sense I’m not surprised that creatures whose intelligence I don’t generally consider are capable of it. Now that I’m, thinking about it, I do actually want to know when learning and memory first arose, and whether anything developed the ability to learn, and then later discarded it as a waste of resources. Is it even possible for pattern-recognition in a nervous system to “evolve away”? It kinda seems like one of those evolutionary pathways that only goes in one direction.

Are jellyfish doomed to develop anxiety someday?

Can they feel anxiety now?

Probably not, but what do I know? Until a couple hours ago, I didn’t know they could learn.

Have Patience: Finding Facts in a Flurry of Fakes

I may have another post up today (people are coming to work on my roof, so we’ll see), but I saw this video from Beau of the Fifth Column, and thought I should share it. The basic overview is that a number of news outlets fell for one or both of a couple fake news stories. One was a photoshopped billboard supposedly saying “Glory to Urine” with the colors of the Ukrainian flag, and the other was an AI-generated video of Rand Paul showing up to work in a bathrobe (on a Saturday) to protest changes to the senate dress code. While the billboard isn’t necessarily new technology, the video is, and fakes of both media, and of audio, are getting better very, very quickly.

This is already a factor in our politics, and you can safely bet that there are organizations generating fake media for the purpose of influencing politics in the US, and around the world. What’s an honest skeptic to do? Well, there’s probably no guaranteed way to see through all of these fakes, but Beau makes the very good point that for anything sensational, someone’s going to dig into it, and if there’s reason to think it’s a fake, that will come out a little while after the media buzz has convinced a bunch of people that it’s real. That means that step one is to wait a day, and see what follows. There’s good reporting out there, but it generally takes time. Patience is a virtue, and when you’re constantly being subjected to misinformation and propaganda, it’s also an essential tool for those trying to figure out what’s going on.

United Auto Workers Outsmarted the Bosses, Amid Widespread Popular Support

As my American readers are no doubt aware, the “big three” auto companies have been refusing to negotiate with United Auto Workers (UAW) in good faith, and so UAW declared a strike. The important backstory here is that until the 2008 crash, auto workers were guaranteed an annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to their pay. This was a hard-won victory, and it meant that the workers could expect a consistent standard of living for their work, despite inflation. In 2008, the big auto companies were in danger of going out of business, and so in addition to the government bailout, the workers agreed to a temporary suspension of their COLA – making a sacrifice for the good of everyone. Since then, the auto companies have refused to restore the adjustment, and have created a new “employment track” in which new workers will never get the same benefits or pensions as older workers. All this, despite making record profits, and spending billions on stock buy-backs, which are basically direct transfers of cash to shareholders. The 40% raise that the UAW is asking for (and that the CEOs are saying is so unreasonable) would move workers’ wages to where they would have been had COLA been in place since 2008. The money is absolutely there, and anyone claiming this would bankrupt the companies is lying.

And so, the union decided to strike, and they have made a couple brilliant tactical moves.

The first, which I initially didn’t understand, was to only strike at some factories, at first. I think when I first heard about this, it was framed as being a bit feeble, when the goal is to force auto makers to realize how much they need their workers to choose to work for them. The reality is that this was a strategic move to conserve resources. As I’ve said before, a strike is a siege. It’s the workers trying to “starve out” the bosses, by hurting production and thus profit, while the bosses try to literally starve out the workers, and force them to give up their demands to avoid homelessness and starvation. In any siege, it’s a question of who can make their resources last longer, and strike funds exist to help workers pay their bills while on strike. Only striking at select factories allows them to extend their strike fund, and gives them room to increase the pressure as time goes on.

The second move – and I love this one – was to mislead the companies as to which locations would be striking. The UAW didn’t say which plants would be striking, and the companies tried to guess, and to preemptively shut down those plants by having their parts shipped elsewhere, and shifting the production schedule. Basically, they tried to dodge the strike. What happened instead, was that they inadvertently shut down several of their own plants, because the workers know more about car production than the bosses. Not only did the UAW extend their strike fund, they managed to trick the companies into effectively striking against themselves:

Brandon Mancilla, a director for the UAW’s Region 9A, which spans New England and the Northeast, told The Intercept that the auto manufacturers are creating more problems for themselves than they would have faced had they come to an agreement with the union before the contracts for its 150,000 workers expired last week. “Instead of bargaining in good faith and understanding our demands and meeting us at the table,” Mancilla said, “these companies are conducting strikes on themselves.”

The UAW did not announce the plants where it intended to hold work stoppages until just before the strike deadline last Thursday night. The targeted facilities — GM’s Wentzville Assembly Center outside St. Louis, Stellantis’s Toledo Assembly Complex in Ohio, and two divisions of Ford’s Michigan plant — were not among those that workers reported companies making preparations at. So far, some 13,000 workers are on the picket line, affecting the production of classic American cars like the Jeep Wrangler and the Ford Bronco, with more to follow if the union’s contract negotiations are not concluded by week’s end.

In the run up to the strike, UAW members at auto plants from Georgia to Tennessee to Ohio took to Facebook and Twitter to share accounts of partial plant closures and faulty information from plant managers leading to chaos on shop floors across the country.

Scott Houldieson, a worker at the Ford assembly plant in Chicago, told The Intercept that company bosses seemed to have no idea where planned strikes were going to take place. “Our local plant management started emptying out vehicles from paint ovens and dip tanks. If they leave cars in there, they get ruined so they start emptying those out and preparing to shut the ovens down. So that’s what was happening here because they thought that our plant was going to be one that was called out,” Houldieson said. “The plant chairman was telling me that ours was the one they were going to strike.”

Houldieson said that other automakers had transferred parts from plants elsewhere in the country, including one in Tennessee. “At GM in Spring Hill, they loaded engines to send to Wentzville because they thought Spring Hill would be the target. Turns out Wentzville was where they struck, so there was a lot of disinformation out there that really put the company on their heels,” he added.

In other words, the company had moved product from a plant that was not striking and to one that did. (The GM spokesperson said that “there’s been no work interruption at Spring Hill as a result of the Wentzville strike.”)

Stellantis admitted that it was caught off guard and took preparations at plants that were not ultimately affected by the strike actions.

There are a number of ways in which the class war can be seen as a literal war. It’s also a very one-sided war. I’ve talked before about how lives are taken to further the interests of the capitalist class, but it doesn’t go the other way. The working class are the only ones whose lives are at risk, almost entirely because workers are allowed to keep so little of the wealth they generate. That means that every move that extends limited resources is a very real victory. Everything I hear from UAW president Shawn Fain indicates that he has a similar view on the nature of this conflict, and so he’s going to use any trick or stratagem that will bring the union closer to victory.

For all my talk of “the class war”, I want to be clear that this strike is not a revolution. The UAW is not trying to take over ownership and management of auto companies, nor do they have the power to do so. It is, however, an important moment in the current labor movement. Support for unions and strikes is incredibly high right now, and if the UAW, and SAG-AFTRA, and the WGA manage to win their strikes, it will be proof of the effectiveness and usefulness of organizing. It will be proof that putting time, money, and effort into unions, is a worthwhile investment.

Throughout my childhood and young adulthood, while I always knew pro-union people, and grew up listening to old labor songs, I also was aware of a general hatred of unions, both among conservatives, and in mass media. They were portrayed as corrupt, and largely ineffective – a burden on workers and bosses alike. I think it’s fair to say that every institution has the potential for corruption, and it should be obvious that the corporations tend to be entirely corrupt, pretty much by design. That’s also why I think the “time and effort” part of investing in unions is important. From what I can tell, democracy is something that requires constant maintenance and improvement, especially in the presence of massive wealth inequality. Unions are not, and never will be perfect – no institution or system can be – but how good they are seems to be far more under workers’ control than are the companies for which they work.

The current support for unions and for these three big strikes is something of a victory all by itself, and I’m hopeful that winning these strikes will solidify that support, and show Americans the good that can come from collective action. Political participation in the US tends to be pretty low. There are a number of reasons for that, but I think one big one is the belief that there’s not really any point in participating. It’s just a waste of limited free time, all to elect someone who’s just going to keep serving the rich. I think when people say that politics don’t matter, it’s less that they don’t think the things done by politicians matter, and more that they don’t believe anything they do can actually affect what the government does. It’s a very understandable reaction to the world as it has been throughout my life.

Obviously, I also think that it’s a misguided reaction. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. My big hope from these strikes, in addition to the ways in which they stand to make life better for millions of people, is that they will convince more people that the problem isn’t with political participation. It’s with the kinds of participation that were offered to them as the only options. There are other ways to fight for change that have nothing to do with elections and political parties, and that are much harder for the rich and powerful to corrupt, and turn to their own ends. Collective action isn’t a panacea, but I think it offers a real chance at a better world.

Cody’s Showdy Takes On Planned Obscolescence

I hate planned obsolescence. I hate it with the kind of burning passion that can only come from personal grievance, but I also hate it for its role in the destruction of a habitable planet, and the way it contributes to the ever-rising cost of living. As the video below discusses, it’s a problem that’s more or less built into our system as it exists, despite being universally unpopular outside of corporate boardrooms. It’s draining all of our bank accounts, making life more difficult, and filling the world (especially where poor people live) with toxic waste. It is one of many reasons why we cannot afford to have an economic system that revolves around endless growth. I will probably write more about this on my own at some point, but for today, here’s Some More News with a good overview. Isn’t it fun when I share videos that make me angry?

Pressure Grows for Biden To Create Civilian Climate Corps

One of the biggest failures of capitalism, particularly the neoliberal version, is the simple fact that there is a lot of work that needs to be done in any society, but that doesn’t generate any profit by itself. Housework is the example with which everyone is at least somewhat familiar. It’s work that absolutely needs doing in every home, but with the exception of paid housekeepers, nobody expects to be compensated for it. Outside of the home, the world is filled with such work, some of which is done, and some of which is not. Infrastructure and its maintenance, pollution cleanup, and ecosystem management also don’t have much to offer in terms of built-in profit making.

People do make a profit off of these things, but it’s generally through government contracts, grants, and donations. Our system is so dedicated to the notion that private, for-profit corporations are the best way to do everything, that we take public resources, and give them to private corporations, so that they can do the work, cut as many corners as possible, and make a profit. The highway system, the power grid, sewage and water systems – all put together with public resources, because there wasn’t a direct profit to be made in setting that stuff up. Likewise the billions that private corporations have made from NASA’s innovations, and from publicly funded medical research.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t get the funding it needs, and the environment is probably at the top of that list. That said, this is something that can be changed, at least in theory. All those public projects have been undertaken within this system, and while I think they were made worse by the fixation on putting everything into the hands of capitalists whenever possible, they still make everyone’s lives better. Public investment is a thing that can be done in the United States, and there’s now an effort to create a “civilian climate corps” to deal with the ever-increasing amount of work that has to be done in response to global warming:

Dozens of Democratic U.S. lawmakers joined more than 50 civil society groups who on Monday implored President Joe Biden to sign an executive order establishing a Civilian Climate Corps that would “put young Americans to work serving their communities” and tackling the planetary emergency.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)—who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety—and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) led at least 50 House and Senate Democrats plus independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in a letter urging Biden to act in the face of the worsening climate crisis. They noted that the president’s January 2021 executive order on tackling the emergency mandated a strategy for creating a Civilian Climate Corps within 90 days.

“With deadly heat, dangerous floods, rising seas, and devastating wildfires—including those that ravaged Maui last month—the climate crisis demands a whole-of-government response at an unprecedented scale,” the lawmakers wrote. “Following up on your earlier commitments, existing legislation, and the demands from young people across the nation, we urge you to issue an executive order formally establishing a Civilian Climate Corps initiative to work on key conservation and climate priorities.”

“By leveraging the historic climate funding secured during your administration, using existing authorities, and coordinating across AmeriCorps and other relevant federal agencies, your administration can create a federal Civilian Climate Corps that unites its members in an effort to fight climate change, build community resilience, support environmental justice, and develop career pathways to good-paying union jobs focused on climate resilience and a clean economy,” the letter adds.

Inspired by the best aspects of the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps—which despite the nostalgia it often evokes among progressives, was for men only, racially segregated, and paid just $1 a day—the Civilian Climate Corps has long enjoyed the support of many congressional Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, who wanted it included in previous legislation.

Climate, environmental, and social justice groups also support the proposal. On Monday, more than 50 of them sent their own letter to the White House urging Biden to “be as ambitious as possible in tackling the great crisis of our time,” in part by establishing a Civilian Climate Corps “through existing authorities, with existing climate funding, that can coordinate across relevant federal agencies.”

I keep saying that we’re in the age of endless recovery now. Disasters fueled by global warming are getting so big and so frequent that we can’t keep up. Recovery takes years, people get abandoned, and all of that reduces the resources available to actually tackle climate change directly. It’s a destructive spiral, but it doesn’t have to be as bad as it is, and we might even be able to pull out of it, if we actually make it a priority.

A civilian climate corps would be helpful in two big ways. First, it would be a jobs program, which would reduce poverty (a good thing in itself), and strengthen workers’ bargaining power. The second is that if used right, it could dramatically increase our ability to recover from disasters, and to directly address the causes of global warming. I’m sure a lot of the money from this would end up flowing through corporations, which is inefficient in some ways, but it’s also probably the most direct way to convert taxpayer money into new renewable and nuclear power. Beyond that, the corps could be put to work on sea walls, or even on things like getting people out of places, like Miami, that cannot practically be protected for sea level rise.

Obviously, this kind of ambitious project will have both ideological and self-interested opposition, from the right wing and from corporate interests that benefit from the status quo, and that don’t want people to see public spending as a real option. I think there are also a number of Democrats, even discounting Manchin and Sinema, who wouldn’t support this. Even so, the Democrats are currently our best bet for making progress here, because with Republicans in charge, there’s zero chance of this going anywhere. To me, that reads like the odds are still against the civilian climate corps going anywhere, but this is one of those situations where an organized working class could put pressure on the people in power.

Looking at responses to the WGA/SAG-AFTRA strikes and the UAW strike, I think that while we’re not at a point where we can get an actual general strike for climate action, we’re closer to that than we have been at any point in my lifetime. There’s much more support for unions and strikes than I’ve ever seen, and support for climate action keeps rising. A climate corps also has room for the patriotism that infects so much of American society, and I think it’s an easier, clearer goal for non-activists to latch onto, than “end fossil fuel use”. The notion of giving back society isn’t a new one, and it’s well past time that the US stopped treated the armed forces as the only way to “serve your country”.

We’ll see where this goes, but I like the idea, and I hope I hear more about it going forward.

Huge Study Shows Importance of Diversity in Ecosystem Restoration

Over the last few years, it has seemed like the idea of planting trees to fight climate change has been gaining in popularity, particularly among those who want to avoid any real systemic change. I also have a sneaking suspicion that if they do get around to any tree-planting, their goal will be to plant large numbers of whatever is cheapest. Unfortunately, if you’re trying to actually help an ecosystem recover, that’s very slow, inefficient way to go about it. It’s depressingly clear that some people will never accept this message, but diversity really is better:

One of the world’s biggest ecological experiments, co-led by the University of Oxford on the island of Borneo, has revealed that replanting logged tropical forests with diverse mixtures of seedlings can significantly accelerate their recovery. The findings, published today in the journal Science Advances, emphasise the importance of preserving biodiversity in pristine forests and restoring it in recovering logged forest.

The experiment was set up by the University of Oxford’s Professor Andy Hector and colleagues over 20 years ago, as part of the SE Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP). This assessed the recovery of 125 different plots in an area of logged tropical forest that were sown with different combinations of tree species. The results revealed plots replanted with a mixture of 16 native tree species showed faster recovery of canopy area and total tree biomass, compared to plots replanted with four or just one species. However, even plots that had been replanted with one tree species, were recovering more quickly than those left to restore naturally.

Professor Hector, the lead scientist of the study, said, ‘Our new study demonstrates that replanting logged tropical forests with diverse mixtures of native tree species achieves multiple wins, accelerating the restoration of tree cover, biodiversity, and important ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration.’

According to the researchers, a likely reason behind the result is that different tree species occupy different positions, or ‘niches’, within an ecosystem. This includes both the physical and environmental conditions to which the species is adapted, and how it interacts with other organisms. As a result, diverse mixtures complement each other to increase overall functioning and stability of the ecosystem. For instance, some tropical tree species are more tolerant of drought because they produce a greater amount of protective chemicals, giving the forest resilience to periodic times of low rainfall. Professor Hector added, ‘Having diversity in a tropical forest can be likened to an insurance effect, similar to having a financial strategy of diverse investment portfolios.’

Well, putting it in financial terms does seem like one way to get them to see the value of diversity. Well played, Professor Hector.

Beyond reinforcing what ecologists have long known about the importance of biodiversity, this study shows that we absolutely can intervene to help ecosystems recover more quickly. Doing so is not going to be enough by itself – we need to end fossil fuel use or it’s pointless – but in addition to having the tools to do that, we also have the tools to make real progress on repairing the damage we’ve done to the world’s ecosystems. Unfortunately, we can’t really get to work on that until we stop doing that damage in the first place. No amount of forest restoration work will help us, if old forests are still being destroyed to make way for oil palm plantations.

Things like this are why I think systemic change is necessary – because our system is set up in such a way that it can’t really promote or protect things that don’t have a monetary value. We know that we need healthy forests, for our own sake, but we keep destroying them anyway, and restoration is generally more of an afterthought. I suppose if I’m keeping to the theme of this post, then I would say that we need to “diversify” our political and economic systems, so that they can allow for healthy ecosystems, human flourishing, and progress, without all the destructive overproduction.