Does Knowledge Have a Sell by Date?

Naomi Klein’s controversial book and subsequent film adaptation, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (2014 and 2015 respectively), was meant to give a new take on the issue of the relationship between the current dominant economic model and the price our planet has to pay for its success. To many of its critics the book/film only rehash well-trodden arguments and offer unrealistic or downright silly solutions, their damning verdict is that in fact the book and film do not ...

A study of fish stocks

Depleted global fish stocks represents a focus for C5: Population ecology. The Gulf of Maine is warming 99% faster than the worlds oceans and is a major contributing factor in the declining cod stocks within that region. Cod is a species adapted to cold water and the increased temperatures  brought about by climate oscillations in the Atlantic and the Pacific have led to an significant decline in the number of fry produced by spawning female cod and fewer are surviving to ...

TED talks / Google Science awards and the COOLing Earth

Biology at the micro level can often feel a conceptual study of processes that have been inferred from abstract data, such as the Kreb's cycle or DNA replication. The following TED video offers a glimpse into the computer generated visualizations of the processes themselves. This video will hopefully provide inspiration as it highlights three young women winning the top prizes at the first Google Science Fair. My third video in the slow month of July is from a favourite website of mine www.labroots.com. I began ...

“Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change”

  On September 21, more than half a million people in 166 countries  (approximately 400, 000 in the New York flagship march alone) marched to demand that world leaders act to tackle climate change. Their demand was directed in large part to the leaders converging today for an emergency UN Climate Summit. Will their huge numbers have any effect on the attitudes--or beliefs--of those who have not already accepted the conclusions of 97% of the world's climate scientists? According to the author ...

Shared knowledge: 2 stories of significance

Behind the stark issue of climate change -- like the other challenges of our times -- looms a concept essential to explore in Theory of Knowledge: shared knowledge. How does knowledge reach people? Through what process of sharing does the public gain knowledge that will affect their lives?  Two recent news reports highlight contrasting processes by which knowledge claims on climate change reach the public -- with profoundly different implications for action. The two reports I pick out are from science ...

TOK and the “real world”: How do we engage most appropriately when knowledge claims have been politicized?

  As a TOK teacher, do you feel you can be “political” in the classroom?   I’d love to have your thoughts on this topic. (Please use that “comment” feature!) I’d love to know how others walk the line between being relevant to the world – and hence engaged in its issues – and being neutral in order not be accused of being an ideologue, inappropriately, in the classroom. Would you, for instance, give the following article to your students, and if ...

“Uncertainty” in science: TOK and UN climate science report

Here’s a question to ask yourself and your students: what percentage of trained scientists have to accept that a knowledge claim has been proven before you yourself will consider it reasonable to accept it?  How many scientists have to be “certain” (that is, convinced)?  And the next, closely related, knowledge question is not about the scientists (and their degree of psychological conviction) but the knowledge claims themselves: how much certainty is necessary for scientific knowledge? Certainty of shared knowledge in the ...

Correlation or causation?: climate change and increased violence

Few recent scientific studies have received as much media coverage as one published recently in Science, arguing for a causal link between climate warming and violence.  The range of media sources covering it is as impressive as the number:  not just general news media at all levels, in many parts of the world, and not just science journals, but also those with particular perspectives, among them religious (or, at least Christian) environmental, police-based, medical and business.  Why should this particular ...