Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

This was one of discussion questions of the Disasters and Ecosystems MOOC.

Actually the answer is simple. The formula for successful environmental degradation consists of 2 variables – overpopulation and capitalism.

When there are a lot of people – most of them a poor, uneducated and hungry. When you are hungry you will do everything to become less hungry today even if it can potentially lead to negative consequences tomorrow, which you may not even foresee if you are uneducated.

Humans are good in adaptation. When the adaptation is strong enough it leads to abuse (for example, if you are well adopted at the stock market you start abusing it to increase your profit even if it will cost dearly to the other stakeholders – people value their own well-being much more than the other’s and of course much more than the well-being of environment especially when they know that their own impact seems negligible compared to impact of the entire population).  When you live in condition of free market of capitalistic world – you are your only hope for not being hungry (or being more wealthy) now. And as you know from the economic theory – the capitalist economy needs a constant grows of consumption and production – so you need more and more resources to just sustain the economy. In conditions of capitalist market people value today’s profit much more than losses of tomorrow

You see – the capitalist economy needs people to consume more and more; more people – more consumption; more people – more poverty and lack of education; more hungry uneducated people people – more people willing to do anything to survive now and don’t even bother themselves about the future.

Overpopulation and a consumption society (created by capitalist economy) inter-stimulate each other and destroy the environment for the today’s profits or food and doesn’t care much of the consequences of tomorrow because most are either uneducated or doesn’t care at all plus you have to live through today to face consequences of your actions tomorrow (a day-by-day living).

Obviously there are 3 steps to improve the situation:

  • Decrease the population.
  • Educate people.
  • Create new sustainable economy model that would equally value tomorrow’s losses and today’s profits, and would not rely on constantly increasing consumption.
“Wow!” – I said to myself after reading R Helps With Employee Churn post – “I can create interactive plots in R?!!! I have to try it out!”

 

I quickly came up with an idea of creating interactive plot for my simple model for assessment of the profitable ratio between the volume waste that could be illegally disposed and costs of illegal disposal [Ryabov Y. (2013) Rationale of mechanisms for the land protection from illegal dumping (an example from the St.-Petersburg and Leningrad region). Regional Researches. №1 (39), p. 49-56]. The conditions for profitable illegal dumping can be describes as follows:

 

Here: k – the probability of being fined for illegal disposal of waste;

P – maximum fine for illegal disposal of waste (illegal dumping);

V – volume of waste to be [illegally] disposed by the waste owner;

E – costs of illegal disposal of waste per unit;

T – official tax for waste disposal per unit.The conditions for the profitable landfilling can be described as follows:

Here: V1 – total volume of waste that is supposed to be disposed at illegal landfill;

Tc – tax for disposal of waste at illegal landfill per unit;

P1 – maximum fine for illegal landfilling;

E1 – expenditures of the illegal landfill owner for disposal of waste per unit.

Lets plot the graphs (with some random numbers (except for fines) for a nice looking representation) to have a clue how it looks like.

 

Note that there is a footnote (this post provides nice examples on how to do it) with the values used for plotting – it is important to have to have this kind of indication if we want to create a series of plots.

Now I will show you the result and then will provide the code and some tips.

Playing with the plot

Tips and Tricks

Before I will show you code I want to share my hardly earned knowledge about nuances of the manipulate library. There are several ways to get static plot like that using ggplot, but some of them will fail to be interactive with manipulate.

  1. All the data for the plot must be stored in one dataframe.
  2. All data for plots must be derived from the dataframe (avoid passing single variables to ggplot).
  3. Do not use geom_hline() for the horizontal line – generate values for this line and store them inside dataframe and draw as a regular graph.
  4. To create a footnote (to know exactly which parameters were used for the current graph) use arrangeGrob() function from the gridExtra library.
  5. Always use $ inside aes() settings to address columns of your dataframe if you want plots to be interactive

The Code

<pre class="brush: r; title: ; notranslate" title="">library(ggplot2)
library(grid)
library(gridExtra)
library(manipulate)
library(scales)
library(reshape2)

## Ta --- official tax for waste utilisation per tonne or cubic metre.
## k --- probability of getting fined for illegal dumping the waste owner (0

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The rally in St. Petersburg was far not as big as in Moscow unfortunately. There were about 3,000 of people but they came and leave constantly, so the actual number of participants might be 6,000 or so.

The problem is that there is no leader amongst the opposition and actually the only thing that they have in common is a wish to get rid of Putin and his gang. Also the opposition (al least that was presented in St. Petersburg) have no stomach. The shouted: “Put Churov on trial!” and only “Putin to resighn!” when it is obvious that Churov is a Putin’s puppet! So Putin is the main criminal and he must be jailed! But I deed shouted: “Put Putin on trial”. I really hope that some day he will pay for all his crimes against Russian people.

While every normal environmental scientists perform their field surveys in Summer (unless there is a need to do this in a specific time of the year) I had to do mine when the weather was not that good. In a five days my colleague and I had to collect land monitoring archives of 3 districts of Sverdlovskaya region, soil samples for analysis for heavy metals concentrations and take pictures of the disturbed lands.

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At the the last week I’ve spent 5 days amongst Baltic Sea related scientists (there were almost 600 of them) at 8-th Baltic Sea Scientific Congress. The congress was interesting indeed even if I’m not a marine or meteorological scientist. There were a plenty of presentations on climate, winds, curves, salinity modelling, environmental risk assessment and governance (a lot of scientists do have problems with risk assessment). And I had a poster about illegal dumping monitoring.

But I would like to show you the presentation of Hans von Storch about “Knowledge generation vs. decision processes – the issue of regional climate service” which I liked the most. It concerns responsibility of the scientists for the knowledge they provide.  Let me start from the end of the presentation and if you will find yourself interested in further reading – hit the “read more” button. All pictures are clickable.

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Here you can find some short and clear insights about GDP flaws in prosperity measuring and about The Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) implementation instead.

  • GDP TREATS CRIME, DIVORCE AND NATURAL DISASTERS AS ECONOMIC GAIN
  • GDP IGNORES THE NON-MARKET ECONOMY OF HOUSEHOLD AND COMMUNITY
  • GDP TREATS THE DEPLETION OF NATURAL CAPITAL AS INCOME
  • GDP INCREASES WITH POLLUTING ACTIVITIES AND THEN AGAIN WITH CLEAN-UPS
  • GDP TAKES NO ACCOUNT OF INCOME DISTRIBUTION
  • GDP IGNORES THE DRAWBACKS OF LIVING ON FOREIGN ASSETS

Diploma for participating in live TV broadcast

I was in the middle of cleaning my inline skates’ bearings when my scientific adviser called me. I thought he finally found some time to check my thesis’s plan, even if the probability of such event is even lower than the probability of the question he asked me:

– “Do you have a time to take part in the discussion on the TV today?”
– “Let me think about it…” – I said while was cleaning my fingers from the lubricant, – “OF COURSE I DO!… By the way, what is the subject of discussion?”

Yesterday I saw something awful. I was finalising my paper for DigitalGlobe 8-Dand Chahallenge on a subject of illegal dumpind detection when behind the window a yard cleaner who was collecting waste accumulated in the snow (citizens find it acceptable to through waste on the ground) suddenly started to dig the ground. He was a guest worker from an Asian part of the former Soviet Union like the most of the yard cleaners in St. Petersburg nowadays, so I was extremely suspicious of his actions.

I’m not a xenophobe, but these foreign guys without education and a language knowledge are a patterns of the criminal activities of any sort initiated both by and against them. I would ban unqualified labour migration. There are plenty of hoi polloi in Russia already. And now the infrastructure of the whole city depends on them, cause it’s being built and repaired by their unqualified hands!

Back to the guest worker. The worst nightmare for the ecologist and the one who is involved in researches related to the waste management come true: a person who is responsible to treat waste properly was burying the waste into the ground!!! Immediately I took the camera and shoot him… O-o-o… I wish I could shoot him!

Son of a bitch is burying collected waste into the ground!

The next moment I’ve opened the window and shouted at him to stop this, collect the waste and put it to the trash bin. This fucking bustard just nodded to me. I doubt he was even able to understand what I was talking about. I was furious!

The first phone call was to this bastard’s employer. No response. I called to the company for 2 hours but there were no answer. The second call was to the public prosecutor’s office for environmental issues. They respond, but the girl told me that they care only about industry (I highly doubt that they do officially have such limitations) and advised to call to the public prosecutor’s office of my district. I did so, but my third call didn’t succeed either: no one answered. By the way, you can appeal to the prosecutor via internet… e-e-h… it’s a bullshit… “Sorry, your appeal wasn’t submitted”. Guess I have to appeal in person.

In the evening my wife told me that her co-workers were the witnesses of such actions in other parts of the city. So it seems that guest workers were not the only one who is responsible for these crimes. Obviously their employers ordered them to do so. They are trying to save money on waste disposal regardless we (the citizens) pay for it! Remember what I wrote about guest workers as the patterns of the criminal activities – they can’t resist criminal orders coming from their owners. But anyway there are no excuses: even if he was ordered to commit the crime, he was the one who actually did it.

Both the guest worker and his greedy employer must be punished. Hope I will be able to bring them to justice.

P.S. The culture was mentioned in the title of this post. If you are not aware, St. Peterssburg has the title of the “cultural capital of the Russia”. Yes, it is… Amen.

There is an interesting post (google-English) about organisation of the community for the Open Source project. To my mind these thoughts are useful for every volunteer based project / community – not only to those dedicated to the software development.

The main ideas (some are in my interpretation):

  • The most of the community participants are passive.
  • The most active participants have to be rewarded by increasing their control over the project.
  • Community have to be organised and organisation have to be transparent.
  • At the beginning community needs a “magnanimous dictator” to unite the community and make project attractive for participants, but for the community and project survival in the long term it is necessary to develop democracy and try to reach the state of anarchy.
  • Project become more attractive when those, who are capable and willing, receive more important tasks.
  • In the beginning it is hard but essential to organise a proper feedback.
  • When community and project are grown and mature it is necessary to prevent its division (fork for the software) because splitting exsanguinates community and the project.
  • Community have to survive its founder so it is necessary to develop the democracy and move towards to anarchy and make decisions via consensus.
  • At the first stage of the democracy the “silent consensus” will prevail, and the silence will mean the agreement. Vote system have to be developed.
  • With the procedures became more complicated the need in providing newbies with the rules of participation will rise.
  • Formalisation of the agreements helps to ensure that the community lives its own life and does not depend on anyone individually”.
  • “The community can survive and flourish for as long as there is demand for the product produced.”
In Stockholm my wife and I had a short conversation with a subway cashier – a 40 years old man. We found out that he speaks Russian fluently and many years ago have studied in Herzen Institute. Excellent painting – Russian education is just good enough to sell tickets in Sweden…
Despite there are no Russian institutions of higher education in top 200 of the Times Higher Education’s list 2010, Moscow State University still holds at 152-nd place on another list. It is not a reason for cheers, because it is only one Russian institution on the list and only at 152-nd place (the situation with higher education and science in Russia is awful and MedvePut does not pay attention to it). But it is an example that all depends on methodology. Let’s take a look at the methodology of the Times…
Times’s methodology (source)
There is no sense to perform a deep analysis, so straight to the point. 11% – of the rating points are different types of incomes, which are definitely much higher in developed countries than in Russia. More over recently the research function was officially separated from education in Russia. So let’s take that any Russian university loses at least 10% out of total 11% in this type of comparison.

32.5% – the greater part of the index is a Citation impact. The main part of the universities from the list are from English-speaking countries. And the main part of the others uses an English for publications. So it is much harder for Russian institutions to gain Citation impact points due to most part of publications are in Russian and it makes them unavailable for the most part of scientific society. Of course there are international publications of Russian scientists but it is a small part of overall publications. Let’s take that Russian institutions lose at least 30% out of 32.5% of Citation impact score.

100% -(10%+30%)=60%. This 60% means 77-th place in current rating – the best what Russian university can get. The last place has 46.2%. Particular Russian university have to lose only 14% in other parts of the rating to be out of the list; remember – 40% are lost by default.

This means that actually it is hard to confirm that Russian education is too bad only because there are no Russian Universities on the list. But definitely there are a lot of problems. Most obvious are a lack of financial support for everything (I don’t even want to talk about corruption) and  a problem with exchange of scientific knowledge.

The last one is a very interesting subject for discussion – it concerns misunderstanding of scientific publication’s goals in Russia (an exchange of knowledge between scientists of the world – not only with fellow countrymen) and one of the main problems of the science (to my mind), which was pointed out by Nietzsche – a general problem of particular language usage (multiple meanings for a single word, etc.). So there are two problems for the knowledge exchange: impossibility of understanding (for foreign languages)  and misunderstanding due to particular language peculiarity. Actually there are 2 more: a general public accessibility  due to intellectual property of journals etc., and classified information, but it is another story.  It is obvious that science have to have its own language. For now  English is a common language for science de facto and you have to accept it. But I suppose that Scientific Language must be created from scratches. I will try to write some thoughts on this subject later.

Back to the Russian universities. If we want to have them on the top 200 list, then we should provide an adequate financial support and put a great-power proud (so typical for Russia) in the ass and publish scientific papers only in English.