School Lockdown Drills Are The New Duck-and-Cover

Children of the Cold War grew up ducking under their desks to practice for the possibility of a nuclear attack. Now, nine out of ten public schools hold lockdown drills to prepare for an active shooter scenario. One psychiatrist wonders if we know enough about the long-term mental health effects of forcing kids to confront, even act out, these violent and deadly threats.

The 1952 government film “Duck and Cover” stars Bert the Turtle, who hides in his shell when a stick of dynamite shows up nearby. The movie was shown to schoolchildren during the Cold War as a way to teach kids how to respond in the case of a nuclear bomb.

The intention was good, but there’s some evidence that duck-and-cover drills caused American kids to be more anxious about the future. Surveys conducted in the 1960s and ‘70s found that the drills made some children feel bewildered, fearful, helpless, and powerless. Some developed a profound sense of fear about the future, or a distrust of adults.

Psychiatrist Mary Woesner, an associate professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and a psychiatrist at the Bronx Psychiatric Center, sees strong parallels to today's lockdown drills and says we need to think more about what the long-term mental health consequences might be.

EPA ‘Transparency’ Rule Uses Tobacco Industry Playbook To Target Environmental Health Studies

A new proposed rule would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from considering scientific studies that don’t release their data publicly or that haven’t been independently verified. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says the rule would increase transparency, strengthen the science behind EPA regulations, and end the era of ‘secret science.’ But the rule has prompted strong condemnation from the science community.

Both supporters and opponents of the rule say it could be the most consequential EPA action of the Trump administration, and they agree that one particular study, known as the Harvard Six Cities Study, is at the heart of the effort. That study ties certain air pollution to increased risk of death, and has been cited in previous regulations. However, under the new rule, that study — and many other long-term public health studies — could not be used by the EPA because the underlying private health data can’t be released.

Scott Waldman, a climate politics reporter with Energy and Environment News, says the strategy goes back to the tobacco wars of the 1990s, and notes that several tobacco industry advocates were present for the announcement of the new rule.

“This is really a technique that conservatives here in Washington have been pushing for decades,” Waldman said.

Representative Lamar Smith has tried multiple times to pass legislation that would impose similar limits. The House has okayed the measures, but the Senate has never taken them up.

“They kind of did an end run around Congress with this,” Waldman said.

The rule is not yet in effect. There is a required public comment period before the rule can be finalized. And expected legal challenges from a range of environmental and science advocacy groups could further delay the rule's implementation.

Extreme Weather And Politics Driving Divide On Climate Change

A new survey finds that 70 percent of Americans think climate change is happening, and nearly 60 percent understand that it is largely human-caused. That puts us back approximately where we were 10 years ago, before politics and economics eroded public acceptance of climate change.

Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, points to three factors that caused a precipitous drop in public acceptance of climate science in 2009 and 2010: the economic downturn, the ClimateGate email hacking scandal, and the rise of the Tea Party.

Acceptance of climate science plummeted, especially among self-identified conservatives. In the decade since, understanding and concern about the issue has slowly crept back up, but the political divide has remained.

“As critical as climate change is, it’s one of many national issues on which we are increasingly polarized,” Leiserowitz said.

This latest survey does suggest that a new player has entered the game— weather. The number of Americans who think that climate change will affect them or people they know is growing. Forty percent of Americans now think they’ve experienced the effects of climate change first-hand.

Leiserowitz attributes that increase to the highly visible increase in extreme weather, from hurricanes to droughts and wildfires. Still, he says politics remains the dominant factor when it comes to shaping public opinion on climate change.

What’s Drawing Academics To The UAW?

Academics make up almost one sixth of the United Auto Workers union. Teaching and research assistants at Harvard this month became the latest student group to join the UAW. Meanwhile, graduate students at Columbia University went on strike last week to demand the university recognize their union.

“There’s momentum around the idea of rights on the job,” said Julie Kushner, director of UAW region 9A, which covers the Northeast and Puerto Rico.

Science runs on what is essentially an apprenticeship system. Students conduct research and, in many cases, assist with teaching. It’s part of their training, but it is also work. And it’s that fuzzy line between education and employment that has made student unionization campaigns controversial.

Students who unionize are largely looking for fair compensation and benefits for the work they do. Kushner says respectful workplace protections and dispute resolution are also big drivers, noting that 44 percent of female graduate students report having been sexually harassed.

“They’re looking for a strong union that has an established track record at the bargaining table,” Kushner said.

UAW has embraced its academic members, adding science advocacy and sponsorship of the March for Science to its more traditional political activities.

“Having the ability to bring to the [science] movement support from other kinds of workers, including auto workers, just makes it a stronger voice and a more powerful movement,” said Kushner.

Kushner says that the expansion of UAW’s umbrella has benefits for both new and traditional members, from academic researchers, to submarine manufacturers and auto makers.

Cape Cod Corals Could Help Cousins In Hot Water

Many long-time Cape Codders would be surprised to learn that there is coral growing along Cape Cod’s shores — no big reefs, just hearty chunks of coral that can survive water temperatures close to freezing.

Loretta Roberson, a researcher at the Marine Biological Laboratory, thinks this unusual coral species could point toward ways to help tropical corals suffering the deadly effects of rising water temperatures.

The Cape Cod coral is unusual because it can survive in a wide range of water temperatures.

"It's found down in the Caribbean in warm water," Roberson said, explaining that she took some of the corals out of the cold waters off Cape Cod and put them in tanks of warm water in the lab. "It was kind of funny, when we first transferred them to that temperature, the polyps came out [as if] they were saying, 'Wow, this is great, what have we been missing all this time.'"

Roberson and her colleagues are testing different types of coral to see which ones can withstand hot water. By looking at the genes that are helping the corals survive, scientists may be able to do gene therapy for corals in the future to save places like the Great Barrier Reef. But that work remains far off.