Without education increases poverty

There are different numbers on poverty in my country, Argentina. Unfortunately officers prepared by the INDEC lack credibility in our population. Argentina Catholic University (Social Debt Observatory Argentina) has been preparing periodically since several years ago statistical reports that are reliable for methodological objectivity.

In the latest report by the ACU is quantified by 28.7 percent of our poverty level in 2014, this indicates that between 2010 and 2014 poverty declined slightly, since poverty in 2010 was somewhat higher (29.4 percent).

But in this report ACU is not limited to measuring the total poverty in our country, but we also illustrates about inequality region of the country, and also alerts us to the huge difference in poverty by education level of the families.
While poverty in the CABA (Buenos Aires) affects 6.8 percent of the population, when the General Paz crosses (outside the capital) poverty is growing more than 5 times as climbs 36.2 percent. There is more poverty in suburban Buenos Aires that inside the country, since in the inner cities poverty is below the level of the suburbs as it hovers around 27 percent.
An important merit of this report is to show the UCA the decisive influence which of education as a determinant of poverty. The national average of poverty in 2014 is, as we said, 28.7 percent, but attention, among those who completed high school is much lower poverty (10.9 percent).

The scourge of poverty and destitution overwhelmingly punish those who did not complete high school, as many as 45 of every 100 of them are poor. In the twenty-first century without complete secondary school it is very difficult for people to have safe and permanent jobs that allow escape poverty.
We are in presence of profound inequality that should be corrected, as these figures tell us that those who do not finish high school are candidates to swell the pockets of poverty, this statement does not surprise anyone because it is not new.
We all know, and this report confirms the ACU so that “adults who are poor today have not completed high school yesterday,” but turn attention is also true that “teens today are not completing high school will be the poor future. ”

This phenomenon is known as “intergenerational transmission of poverty” because today’s poor children have no secondary education, which in turn also completed the secondary cycle legally enforceable.
Our education system is consolidating inequality. And that for every 100 children entering first grade a private primary school complete secondary 70 of them, but 100 entering a state primary end secondary school just 27. Without universal secondary school, which outreach to all socioeconomic levels of the population, can not alleviate poverty. This universalization of secondary should be the concern of the next government that will begin in December.

Unesco: learn more in public schools in Latin America

A UNESCO study published yesterday found the Argentine students attending private schools perform better in reading and natural science than their peers who attend public schools. The figure refers to 3rd and 6th grade, where students from private primary schools earned an average of 30 points higher than those of state schools in those two areas. In mathematics, however, no differences between the two types of schools met once ruled the socioeconomic variable.

The data comes from the second report of results of the test TERCE of Unesco, presented yesterday. The study refers to primary education in 15 countries in Latin America, including Argentina. While performance results had already been released in December last year, the focus of this new report are “associated factors” to learning.

The study found that the learning gap between the public and private system occurs in almost all Latin American countries, but when the influence of socioeconomic status of schools is discarded, only a few still show differences between them, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, in certain subjects and grades. In most countries, the differences in achievement between different types of school are attenuated or disappear when considering the socioeconomic level of the students.

When comparing rural to urban public schools, the study found that the first Unesco perform better. Argentine rural schools stand out at regional level: students reach higher levels of achievement in reading, mathematics and science than students in urban public schools.

The TERCE report also found that the contexts of school violence undermine learning, Argentina and countries like Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. For every point increase in the rate of violence in the school environment, student scores are reduced between 8 and 38 points. “The perception of violence is negatively related to attendance, behavior and academic performance of students,” says the document. He adds that the insert schools in High-violence “work in greater isolation and less involved members of the school community that when the social fabric is stronger.”

This can be worrisome considering another major findings: the involvement of families in the education of their children is key for these achieve better learning. “When parents call attention, compliment or support students by grades, academic achievement increases in a range between 7 and 36 points”,  says the document of Unesco.

Another key finding is that in Latin America the socioeconomic level of the school is the most important variable to explain the academic achievement of students. But Argentina is an exception compared to the other countries surveyed, the socioeconomic status of the local schools have a “moderating influence” on learning.

In other words, the Argentine education system is more egalitarian than the regional average. “A school system more homogeneous distribution of the results, such as Argentina, benefits from universal education policies – recommends Unesco -. These may include curricular changes, introducing educational systems of proven effectiveness, improvements in initial teacher training and continuous development, among other initiatives. ”

Regular use of computers in class low performance

Regular use of computers in the school attentive to learning. The data also arises from TERCE study: in Argentina, the 6th grade boys use computers in class more than twice per week gain between 30 and 45 points lower in reading, math and science. The use of netbooks once or twice a week, however, does not affect learning of Argentine boys: neither improves nor worsens.

In the other 14 countries surveyed, the daily use of the computer in class learning also decreases. But countries like Uruguay do achieve improvements in performance when use is more moderate: Uruguayan kids who use netbooks twice weekly gain an average of 30 points compared to their peers who do not use these technologies.

However, the report clarifies that the daily use of the computer at home itself promotes better learning. The more often you use the computer at home, they are also higher student academic performance: Argentinean students who use the computer at home obtained between 20 and 30 more points than their peers do not. In other words, new technologies are not producing better learning when used in the classroom, but access to these tools themselves is crucial for the education of children.

 

Image Source : http://www.vocativ.com/

Become an opinion or misinformation

How often do you find yourself saying things like:

“I’ve heard that…”

“They say that…”

I call these “uninformed opinions”. Whenever you adopt a point of view based on what you heard someone else say, you are committing you believe something that you have no idea is even true. Why do this do yourself? Want to look smart, do some research before you start making uninformed assertions toward things.

You’ve heard that, right? Heard it from who? From one person? Is one person enough evidence for you to believe that this “thing” is true? Who are “They”? Are these people in the same group, or category, or demographic, or income class, or occupation, or age range? Is it your in-laws? Is it your church community? If so, do you think there could be a bias among them, against the facts?

Maybe you’ve “heard” it from the news, and you (among most people) take news information as 100% fact. Okay then, which news source are we talking about? Fox News—a strong bias to the right? MSNBC—a strong bias to the left? CNN—Focused on dramatizing every story, rewriting it and omitting facts so that it feels like you’re reading a short story, where there’s always a plot, a good guy, bad guy, etc. Maybe it’s BBC—trustworthy, but still can’t be taken verbatim. There is no source without a bias folks.

Hell, scientific fact is even challengeable. Back in the day if you told your elders that the world wasn’t flat, you’d be locked up and tortured.

Let’s look at some examples:

“They say that pesticices can cause cancer.” Really? Well, who are “they”? The CDC? Your best friend? Your mother? Wikipedia? Have you done any research on your own from any reliable source or are you just adopting a point of view from what you heard once on Headline News? Do yourself a favor, and before you speak up about this next time, educate yourself first. Do some research. I’m not saying pesticides don’t cause cancer, I’m just saying this seems to be a hot topic, so before you jump on the band-wagon, do some research.

So then, what do I base this ideology off of? What comes to mind is all the instant gratification our youth seems to be addicted to—YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter—and also the mindless entertainment in our media, Miley Cyrus, for example. Those who represent our youth in media are, in my eyes, are showing less and less intelligence by the week. However, what if this is just a choice based off of preference and/or trend and has nothing to do with intelligence level? What if we are more intelligent than before and we realize we can now get the same thing only faster and more concentrated? Or maybe it’s not a sign of lack of smarts but a lack of applying those smarts?

Many times too, as humans, we bring our emotions into the picture, which really muddy the facts. There are many ideologies based off of prejudices and racism, all emotion based opinion against another group of people, always negative emotion. Try and stick with the facts despite your feelings.

So, next time, instead of speaking about a subject in which you have no knowledge, have done no research, have no real-world experience, don’t speak up. Or, just say “I’m not sure.” Ironically enough, you will come off as more intelligent and people will respect you for that. All instead of basing your opinions and arguments on what “the world” tells you.

As a social network aid to education

Tarrou's Chalk Talk

I saw this article in the Huffington Post about a teacher named Rob Tarrou who makes great YouTube videos that show him teaching math and how these videos have become popular.

From the moment I started reading this article I was amazed. I loved the title, “Chalk talk” and how he is literally using a chalk board and doing math examples.  It was easy to see that this teacher had a lot of passion for teaching math. What teacher would upload videos of themselves teaching math for students who miss school? I’ll tell you-passionate teachers! He isn’t doing this to make a profit. He seems to do this because he loves to teach.

Then I decided to watch a video and see what they were like. I like how he introduces himself in the video. He likes wearing a silly shirt or jumping into the video.  The article says how he has been getting views on his videos from all over the world and how they seem to help many people.

The article mentions how this is an example of a “flipped classroom” and discusses some negatives of the flipped classroom. If you do not know what a flipped classroom is, it is when a student watches videos like the ones this where a teacher is giving instruction at home and at school assignments, tests, and labs are completed. The negatives it mentions are that it is not the same as hands on instruction and it seems only possible in communities where every student has a computer.

I think that if a teacher is uploading themselves teaching a lesson, they have to think about its purpose. Is it for a few students who want to watch a video at home for extra help? Or is it for all students who are learning in a flipped classroom? I think that the purpose determines the content of the video and how the video is portrayed.

Mr. Tarrou is currently not using a flipped classroom, but I feel that he could the way his videos are presented. They seem to reach students who are currently learning a new topic or are confused on a topic and want extra help. I think this is a great example of a YouTube video that can be used any way. It can be used in a flipped classroom or just for extra help. Anyone around the world can see this video.

I love watching YouTube when I have a problem and seeing how others solved it. The power of YouTube is just absolutely huge.  So when I see articles on how people are becoming popular from Youtube like Mr. Tarrou, I am reminded of how much of an influence YouTube has on our society. To me it is just as influential as Google. I would love to sit in Mr. Tarrou’s class and see if he is like his YouTube videos!

About Mob Mentality

Mob Mentality

There have been times in our lives when we’ve heard the expression ‘if your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do the same?’ from our parents or our teachers. We answered with ‘no’ most of the times. The sad fact is that, every now and then, without realizing why, we would jump with our friends. People follow people. It’s been like this for ages. The reason we blindly follow people is because we lose our sense of individuality and become part of a group’s mechanism. Most of the times, there are negative outcomes when this happens. Football fights, military units, witch trials, all of these are examples of why acting without individual thinking is wrong. You can do something about mob mentality.

Let’s analyze the London riots, for example. At the beginning of August 2011 some London districts suffered rioting, looting and arson when thousands took the streets, during a protest that turned violent. A piece of an article found in The Guardian stated:

“Many who participated in the riots were confronted with scenes that challenged their conscience. A 17-year-old from Islington who, on the second night of the riots, looted a branch of Currys in Enfield, described how her feelings changed as the night progressed. When people she knew smashed their way into a hairdresser’s, stealing shampoo and ripping out the basins, she thought: ‘It’s so dumb. I don’t agree with it.’”

Does disagreeing actually matter? Yes, it does. If you see mobs as an irrational phenomenon, the first response is to repress (why reason with those who have no reason?) and second is to look for problems within the communities from which rioters are drawn. There are ways in which you can say “No, I won’t jump”.  Understanding how belonging to a group can influence our thoughts helps us make sense of the behavior that otherwise will appear irrational and has fundamental implications in how we respond to crowd actions.

We should start asking ourselves why is it so easy for humans to act violently when belonging to a group. The idea of mob mentality was first coined by social psychologist Gustave Le Bon [1], when referring to the belief that a group can act as a single individual. This leads most of the time to destructive behavior. The London riots were only the start in a chain of riots that happened in the next three nights all across England. Significant disturbances, involving rioting and looting, were reported in Birmingham, Salford, Liverpool, and Manchester. The capability to control behavior disappears, therefore exposing individuals to contagion. All acts of love, hatred, anger are immediately approved, spread and repeated.

Have you ever been in a group and acted in a way contrary to your ordinary behavior? A man, as part of a group, is a very different individual. When studying the effects of behavior of individuals in a revolution, Le Bon [2] thought that the collective mentalities are very different than personal mentalities. In a mob mentality the individual’s identity disappears, causing anonymity. Simply by being part of a crowd, folks lose all sense of self and all sense of responsibility, and manage to gain power due to the group’s size.

Behavior in a crowd is mostly influenced by anonymity. Nobody knows who you are when you stand next to a large number of people. Diener [3] conducted a study on how anonymity influences ones behavior in a group by observing children that went trick-or-treating on Halloween. The results of the study indicated that children who wore costumes that concealed their identity, or children who went trick-or-treating in a group stole extra candy than when they were alone with the candy bowl. So, anonymity enhances the loss of self-awareness within a group that eases the path to anti-social behavior and encourages individuals to identify with the group. If people don’t know you, there will be fewer consequences for your actions.

Anonymity and loss of individuality eases up the process of behaving anti-social. Festinger, Pepitone and Newcomb’s [4] used the term “deindividuation” to describe the effect of groups on the behavior of an individual. They stated that when belonging to a crowd, a person will be ‘able to indulge in forms of behavior in which, when alone, they would not indulge’. Think about how easy it must have been for the participants at the London riots to loot stores in groups rather than when they are be alone. Including one person in a crowd or a group results in the feeling of anonymity and loss of personal identity, which motivates people to act aggressively or deviate from their usual social behavior.

Humans tend to exhibit certain behavior when they become members of a group. For example, Jeremy Dean stated in his blog ten rules that govern group behavior. Some of them mentioned that a group can shape our conformity, and influence our decision making, or even threaten us with ostracism if we do not agree with the overall decisions made by the group.

Understanding mob mentality can be the first step in stopping the negative outcomes.  The solution lies in preventing deindividuation, rather than punishing the results. For instance, what did the authorities do after the London riots? They started repressing rioters. This was wrong. A different approach should have been taken such as helping individuals become more self-aware. There are experiments with mirrors [5] which have proven that people become more self-aware of their actions. By forcing an individual to see himself, you force him to think about his actions, and that increases self-awareness and decreases deindividuation. This was applicable for preventing riots at football matches, where mirrors and cameras have been placed on the walls stadiums. Additionally, it is important to stop unruly behavior from its early stages. One way to do this is by reinforcing their individual identity. Simply by calling people by their name, pulling them out of a mob and encouraging personal differences in a group can reduce the harmful effects of deindividuation.

If you manage to create non-threatening, non-stressful, and unambiguous situations people may think more clearly about their actions instead of being drawn in by negative group norms.

References

[1]   Le Bon, G., (1896) General Characteristics of crowds – Psychological Law of Their Mental Unity. The Crowd: A study of the Popular Mind. Book I, Chapter I.

[2]    Le Bon, G., (1913) The Psychology of Revolutionary Crowds, The Psychology of Revolution, 4, 57-63

[3]    Diener, E., Fraser, S., Beaman, A., & Kelem, R. (1976). Effects of deindividuation variables on stealing among Halloween trick-ortreaters. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 33, 178- 183.

[4]    Festinger, L., Pepitone, A., & Newcomb, T. (1952). Some consequences of deindividuation in a group. Journal of Social Psychology, 47, 382-389.

[5]    Asendorpf, J.B., Warkentin, V., & Baudonniere, P.M. (1996) Self-Awareness and Other-Awareness II: Mirror Self-Recognition, Social Contingency Awareness, and Synchronic Imitation, Developmental Psychology, Vol.32, No, 2,313-321

If you think green: think in the children

Hans Rosling provides another interesting TED talk. As he mentions economics plays a huge role in whether we will slow population growth. The economic condition plays a huge role in child survival which he calls “the new green.” Meaning the fate of the environment is tied to increasing child survival (and decreasing poverty). There are many important factors that will impact the fate of the environment but a big factor is world population.

Difference between Online Education VS. Traditional Education

These days, the internet has grown into a veritable wealth of information for college seekers. Everything from applying for financial aid to taking a course can be accomplished online. Now, a student can even obtain online degrees from one of many schools offering online education as a viable alternative to a traditional classroom education. How different are these two methods of teaching, and do either prove better for the student? There’s an abundance of information regarding online education, and distance education is becoming increasingly popular for students everywhere.

First and foremost, there are some obvious benefits in obtaining instant degrees. For example, juggling a job, school and a home can be very difficult as far as commuting to the classroom every day. With online education, you eliminate the need to attend classes, and instead access your coursework from an internet website. This presents an obvious benefit to the overworked college student because his commute is basically slashed in half. What’s more, many distance education programs allow students to complete the coursework any time during the day, while still adhering to overall deadlines. This allows for flexibility that a traditional classroom setting can ordinarily not provide.

However, is an online education truly comparable to the type of education a student would receive in an actual classroom? Many professionals in the field say yes, and certainly students seeking online degrees can confirm this response. Not only does online learning provide a stimulating environment for students, but it promotes even interaction among every student because everyone has a say in classroom discussions. What’s more, online education programs allow each student to learn with the methods that work best for them. Plus, many employers respect online degrees as much as a traditional college degree, so there’s really no difference in the amount of education or respect a student will receive when attending an online college.

While traditional colleges will never be eliminated, there’s definitely been an increase in the amount of students attending online colleges in recent years. Many people choose to follow the online education route for the diversity of material they can find, or because the teachers are more approachable via the internet than they would be in a classroom setting. Students definitely need discipline and self-motivation to succeed in obtaining online degrees, but there’s still the same level of help and support from teachers and students online that there would be in a classroom. What’s more, internet college students are learning skills that will be beneficial to them in the workforce and beyond because of the way technology is evolving today.

Life experience online degrees are becoming an increasingly popular way to obtain a college education and many students are turning to online education because of the quality of material, convenience and the level of flexibility inherent in distance education programs. Because there’s no distinct differences between an online education and a traditional education, students are assured they are receiving the same kind of education that they would in a brick and mortar setting. There are definite benefits to online degree programs, and students with discipline and motivation can and will succeed greatly in online education programs.

A look at the costs, benefits and disadvantages of an online college education, versus conventional practices (source : http://www.realonlinedegrees.com)

 

How Energy Farms Work

checking_temp_of_compostEnergy Farms grow food, but are also net producers of energy. They can operate at a range of scales, and use a mix of ancient and new crops and technologies.

Less than a century ago most farms were net energy producers; today US farms consume more energy than they produce, and our food system as a whole consumes 7.3 calories of energy for every calorie we eat. In the face of declining fossil fuel stocks, members of the Energy Farms Network are dedicated to relearning how to put food on our plates in a way that produces more energy from renewable sources than we consume from nonrenewable sources.

The Energy Farms Network includes farmers, gardeners, and researchers sharing their experiments with mixed food and energy production systems through a blogs, web-casts, vidoes, and other emerging media.

The various Energy Farms projects are guided by a clear set of priorities intended to steward the Earth, promote social equity, and foster local food and energy security.

Production: Food First

  1. Grow food for local consumption
    The program aims to generate toolsets, methods, and discourse that will prove useful to groups and communities that want to maintain food security in a post petroleu m context. Additionally, the program Tp_and_spinachprovidesdata related to the true cost of food without chemicals, excessive transport, or subsidy.
  2. Improve the soil
    The soil is the farm’s greatest resource. If intensive vegetable and grain cultivation are expected, then an equally intensive compost system is required to secure the fertility of the land. When possible the Energy Farm Program makes use of marginal land to grow energy crops and works to revitalize soil with cover cropping, reduced tillage, and compost.
  3. Trade locally
    In addition to growing food, Energy Farms produce commodities that support other farms. They generate items of legitimate value and are cornerstones of local commerce.

Minimize Energy Inputs

  1. Use muscle powerGlaser_Use
    Before cheap oil drastically influenced agriculture practice in the early to mid 20th century, most agricultural work was performed by muscle power (i.e. human, horse, ox, mule). Agricultural systems that rely on cheap, imported fuel are vulnerable to inflation in energy prices and may not be able to sustain current yields or operation. The Energy Farm program realizes that there is a need for more farms at a smaller scale. These farms must be able to produce consistent reliable forms of food and energy without relying on fossil fuel, heavy machinery, or petroleum based chemicals.
  2. Use appropriate technology that saves fuel, labor and time
    Farmers are famous for improvising tools that meet the needs of specific farm tasks. Likewise, the Energy Farm program is developing tools and assembling toolsets that will meet specific needs of farmers in order to them help cultivate and process farm-based commodities in a post petroleum era. Society cannot afford to revert to primitivism and we must use our historical vantage point to integrate useful methods from past as we experiment with new tools to build the future.
  3. Use renewable energy on the farm
    Food and energy are interconnected and it is imperative that farm infrastructure be powered by renewable energy technology to produce consistent reliable food and energy. Some farm tasks require more energy than a team of laborers can perform and must look for ways to power the tools that has made modern agriculture so productive. Wind turbines and solar panels, ethanol and biodiesel, each have their place in an agricultural system that uses heavy machines only when necessary.

Relocalize

  1. Prioritize using local labor, energy, materials, capital, and biomass for farm activitiescompost
    One of the surest ways to build your community is to invest locally in people, projects, and programs that are working toward a common goal of stewardship and sustainability. When groups derive their resources locally they are likely to be less vulnerable to resource scarcity concerns. Energy Farms are built to rely on as few outside imports as possible, and in some instances, even go as far as to grow their own organic fertilizer on site.
  2. Develop relationships with local buyers of farm goods and providers of farm needs
    An Energy Farm is of no use in isolation. Farm members participate in the community discourse and integrate themselves into many facets of the community in order to assist and be assisted by as many people as possible. Local organic restaurants, farmers markets, the Grange, welders and fabricators, master gardeners, universities, other non-profits, and permaculture guilds are all important connections for the Energy Farm because they provide an outlet for produce and a maintain a web of material and intellectual support.
  3. Promote “relocalization” practices:
    • Revitalization of co-ops supporting community supported manufacturing and agriculture
    • Co-op acquisition of small threshing machines for cereal and oilseed processing or micro hydro turbines for electricity
    • Creation of local waste management systems to collect food scraps to be converted to compost, biogas, and livestock feed.

Research

  1. Collect data on all farm production, including energy inputs, labor inputs, growing conditions, and yieldslocalize_now_0
    Record-keeping allows comparisons between systems and technologies.
  2. Develop scientifically robust research programs to determine optimal local practices for food and energy production
    Findings are only meaningful if they are reproducible. Collaborate with people trained in experimental design. Ideally, research will have untreated controls, and treatments will be replicated, and randomly assigned.
  3. Share and collaborate
    Energy Farm researchers share information through new media, including blogs, videos, and web presentations. These new media can make preliminary research results available to a broader audience, but they do not replace the peer-reviewed journal articles that researchers use to share information. Preliminary results should be viewed critically. Interactive technology, including blog comments, can help shape research in progress to ensure it is meaningful and conclusions are valid. Readers should approach material posted to the Energy Farms blog as critical collaborators, not passive consumers.

Researchers Contribute Climate Model to Study That Finds Some Winds Decreasing

Declining wind speeds in parts of the United States could impact more than the wind power industry, say Iowa State University climate researchers.

Three Iowa State researchers contributed their expertise in modeling North America’s climate to a study to be published in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres. The study – led by Sara C. Pryor, a professor of atmospheric science at Indiana University Bloomington – found that wind speeds across the country have decreased by an average of .5 percent to 1 percent per year since 1973.

“The study found that across the country wind speeds were decreasing – more in the East than in the West, and more in the Northeast and the Great Lakes,” said Gene Takle, an Iowa State professor of geological and atmospheric sciences and agronomy.

In Iowa, a state that ranks second in the country for installed wind power capacity, Takle said the study found annual wind speed declines that matched the average for the rest of the country.

The study’s findings made headlines across the country. Most of those stories focused on the potential implications for the wind power industry.

But Iowa State’s team of climate researchers – Takle; Ray Arritt, a professor of agronomy; and Bill Gutowski, a professor of geological and atmospheric sciences – say the study raised other issues and questions, too.

The study looked at eight sets of wind data going back to 1973 and up to 2005: actual wind speed measurements from anemometers; a hybrid of measurements and computerized climate models; and two different regional climate models. Iowa State researchers contributed a regional model of North America’s climate they’ve worked with since the early 1990s. It’s a community model that researchers across the globe share and use. The Iowa State researchers have used the model to run long-term climate simulations.

Takle said there wasn’t a lot of agreement between the measurements and the various models. The model that most closely matched the measurements was the one used by the Iowa State researchers.

Gutowski said the differences aren’t surprising because the study was an initial examination of surface wind trends. He also said those differences tell climate researchers they have more work to do.

“We see this trend toward slower wind speeds and our unanswered question is whether this is part of global warming or something else,” Gutowski said. “What we’re poking into here is not something that’s commonly explored. Most studies look at temperature and precipitation, not surface winds.”

But the researchers said slower surface winds can have significant impacts beyond the wind power industry.

Crops, for example, depend on the wind for ventilation and cooling. Slower winds could mean higher field temperatures and less productive crops.

Slower winds could also mean more dew covering crops for longer periods, Takle said. That could mean problems with fungus and plant disease. That could also lead to lower yields at harvest time.

In cities, slower winds can mean more pollution and heat, the Iowa State researchers said.

“Air pollution episodes in major cities happen when there’s high pressure and stagnant air,” Takle said. “Less wind means less ventilation and less sweeping away of pollutants.”

Slower winds can also be a problem when heat waves hit a city, he said. The winds wouldn’t dissipate as much heat, allowing heat to linger and build.

All of those potential impacts need further study, the researchers said. And so does the cause of the apparent decline in the country’s wind speeds.

Takle suggested three possibilities for the trend: changes in instrumentation produced flawed measurements (though Takle said researchers made corrections to account for the changes); the study didn’t account for land-use changes such as development and tree planting that slowed winds near instruments; or the climate is changing and one consequence is slower winds.

Arritt said the study appears to support theories that climate change could affect surface winds.

“There are some good theoretical reasons to think that global warming will cause lighter winds in regions between the tropics and the Arctic,” Arritt said. “But we like to confirm our theory with data, and our results make us think the theory is on track.”

Earth : Disney film

A scene from Disneynature's "Earth"In 2005, this little French nature documentary came along and changed the box-office rules. March of the Penguins earned $77 million in U.S. theaters. And Disney, which distributed the film in some countries, including France, took notice. The studio that invented the modern family-friendly nature film, with its True Life Adventures in the 1940s through the ’60s, has been in and out of nature filmmaking. It was time to send Disney crews into the wild again.

“It seemed like a natural, without playing on words, to carry on this Disney tradition,” says Jean-Francois Camilleri, executive vice president and general manager of Disneynature, the studio’s new documentary division. “Most of the people who are filming in the wild as we speak were inspired by those early Disney films.”

That’s certainly true of Mark Linfield. The co-director of the BBC’s acclaimed Earth series, he co-directed Disneynature’s first feature film. Earth opens in theaters on Wednesday: Earth Day.

“My earliest wildlife-film memories was watching black and white TV of Perri the squirrel, beavers and nature films in the living room with my family,” Linfield says. “Those were Disney True Life Adventures, which were shown in the U.K. when I was growing up. They must have been quite formative because I had an enthusiasm for wildlife from a very early age.”

Earth is an introduce-the-new-studio film, says Camilleri, a movie that covers “all the Earth.” Earth ranges from pole to pole, through forests, deserts and even into the ocean. It is built on footage (some never broadcast) from the BBC series that Linfield and Alastair Fothergill directed. Camilleri says that the plan “was to launch our first film on Earth Day. The movie we wanted to launch this studio with should be about everything in nature, all parts of the world. The second film will be about the oceans, then film by film we will focus in closer on some details of natural life — chimpanzees, for instance, lions, pollinators.”

The Earth team spent 2,000 days filming, with four or five crews in the field at any given time, says co-director Fothergill. “We literally filmed from pole to pole, from the top of mountains to the bottom of the ocean. Over-wintering with emperor penguins at minus 70 degrees centigrade was demanding. Diving with sailfish — 75-mph fish with javelins on their noses — was tricky. Working with elephants in the sandstorm the helicopter almost crashed.”

All in pursuit of images never before seen on screen — sailfish sweeping their sword-like bills through schools of baitfish, stunning them, lions tackling an elephant, birds of paradise offering their courtship displays.

“We have to be innovative,” Camilleri says. “For big-screen versions of these films, you have to be a little bit more on the edge. Alastair and Mark came to us three years ago [the film was commissioned at the same time as the TV series] and are doing films for us. They are probably the best in the world at this genre. We are doing a chimpanzee film and an African cats on the Serengeti film with them.

“Luc Jacquet who directed March of the Penguins is doing a film for us. Jacques Perrin who did Winged Migration is doing Oceans for us. We have the best nature filmmakers in the world making movies for us.”

The idea, Camilleri says, is to release one Disneynature film a year — Oceans in 2010, Naked Beauty: A Love Story that Feeds the Earth (about insects and animals that pollinate) in two years, African cats in three years, chimpanzees in 2013.

Will it pay off? Maybe, says Brandon Gray, president and publisher of the movie-biz Web site Boxofficemojo.

“There’s always room for family films, and nature documentaries are part of Disney’s brand,” Gray says. “As long as their expectations are kept in check — it will be hard to match March of the Penguins, but they could certainly do Winged Migration business [$11 million] — they’ll do well.”

Fothergill says that making family-friendly documentaries for the big screen meant that they wouldn’t be “getting up on our soap box.” The environmental message of the movies would be more subtle, “this is what’s still out there and worth saving.”

And they’d always have that entertaining Disney touch.

“This big cat movie we’re doing is all drama and intrigue, a real Serengeti soap opera,” Fothergill laughs. “And the chimpanzees? They literally are writing their own script. If they get their hands on a typewriter, look out!”

Educators can go to disney.go.com/disneynature to find 58 pages of support materials about great migrations, predators and prey and other phenomena depicted in Earth.