Ramin's Space: Pros and cons of the tech sector's rise

Hi everyone! The latest edition of Ramin's Space includes a new story I just published, as well as a sampling of others involving science, space and society that I think you’ll like. Happy reading!

A tale of two local economies

The tech industry’s growing rapidly in downtown San Diego, even during the pandemic, while the hospitality and tourism sectors -- and all the jobs associated with them -- have been struggling. This is my first news story for Voice of San Diego. I was also interviewed by the local NPR station about this story yesterday.

In other writing...

Carbon capture is not a climate savior

Despite Elon Musk’s bad-faith bluster about carbon capture technologies, they’re not all they’re cracked up to be. As Kate Aronoff writes in The New Republic, it’s not clear which of these negative emission schemes has a chance of working, and it’s hard to imagine scaling up the current 0.1% of global emissions being canceled out to an amount that makes a dent in climate change in the limited time we have. There’s no substitute for our necessary task: “electrify everything, build lots of renewables, and rapidly phase out fossil fuels.”

Chemical warfare’s home front

You’re probably more familiar with lots of potentially harmful chemicals than you realize — CFCs, DDT, BPA, neonics, to name a few — but we have a habit of solving problems with chemicals that later introduce new problems in our “toxic age.” This is an interesting piece by Elizabeth Kolbert in the New York Review of Books (though it’s behind a paywall).

What Biden should do with the Space Force

The Space Force got a promotion under President Trump to its own military service. For Biden, more important than demoting the Space Force is to promote diplomacy. I agree with Kelsey Atherton in Slate, who writes, “the more meaningful action would be to choose to see space as a commons, breaking with Trump’s orbital policies that treated a war in space as inevitable—and America’s to win.”

A Black Lives Matter founder on building modern movements

I like this New Yorker piece about Alicia Garza, as it’s not just about Black Lives Matter but also its broader implications for other social movements. Garza, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor writes, “is primarily interested in the larger question of how to move from engaging in protests and mobilization to acquiring the political power necessary to transform the conditions in poor and working-class Black communities.”

Biden to elevate science adviser to his cabinet

President Biden has assembled an accomplished team of science advisors, which is a stark contrast with the previous administration, writes Carl Zimmer in the New York Times. It includes Broad Institute geneticist Eric Lander, Nobel Prize-winning bioengineer Frances Arnold, astronomer Maria Zuber, and sociologist Alondra Nelson. Lander comes with some baggage though and this Scientific American piece argues that he might not be the ideal choice for the position.

What I'm reading: Jorie Graham's new, flowing book of poetry, Runaway, which feels timely with its look to the future, including thoughts on what we’ve lost and what’s at stake. I’ve also started reading Michelle Nijhuis’s new book, Beloved Beasts, which explores the history of environmental conservation, including the role of racism and colonialism, and rethinks the concept for the 21st century.

Looking back: I wrote this op-ed in Undark magazine one year ago, arguing that when it comes to addressing climate change, the population and whether people have kids are a red herring. I still believe that. Let’s not distract from the real villain here, the fossil fuel industry.

More about me: I'm an astrophysicist turned science writer and freelance journalist based in San Diego. You can find me at my website, raminskibba.net and on Twitter @raminskibba. I'm also former president of the San Diego Science Writers Association (SANDSWA) and on the board of the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), though the opinions I express are mine alone. If someone has forwarded this email to you, you're welcome to subscribe too.