NYTimes OpEd- Conservation or Curation?

Victo Ngai

I did a quickie for today’s NYTimes Op-Ed on how the new definition of what qualifies as an endangered species, passed this month, severely limits the scope of the law.  

Previously, the language of the law — that a species qualifies if it is “at risk of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range” — was read to mean that species should be protected if their geographic range was significantly smaller than it had been in the past. Now, a species will only count as endangered if it is at risk of going extinct. This significantly restricts conservation and ignores any responsibility we may have to mitigate even a portion of the harms that we’ve committed against other species. Read the article here

The illustration features a Colorado River Cutthroat Trout, its protection has been recently denied because they were not at risk of extinction, even though their geographic range was significantly smaller than it had been in the past. 

Big thanks to AD Matt Dorfman, always a pleasure to work with. He suggested we go for a more playful layout instead of boxing the fish in, which made the image that much more dynamic. I also like how the trout now looks like its skidding down some stairs screaming while falling apart. 

March on Washington: Will Issues Affecting Black Women Always Take A Backseat?


What’s worse than separately suffering racism or sexism? Probably enduring the compounded effects of both racism and sexism.

On the Eve of the 50th anniversary of the historic “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” and in the midst of escalating attacks on women’s rights, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s much celebrated “I Have A Dream” speech became problematic for me.

At the nation’s capitol Dr. King bellowed, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

Dr. King’s usage of male centric language didn’t prophesize a post-racial America; it inadvertently marginalized women in society. His vision of America as a beacon of justice and freedom had standing in its shadows Black women. History was repeating itself.

Read the rest…


Fossils, Taxonomy and Debate: Is fossil classification fundamentally flawed?

  • Guest post by Winston Zack, Department of Geography (University of North Texas)

Linnaeus improved the organization of taxa into related groups, but this is still fundamentally a flawed system of organizing biology given that the foundations of evolutionary principles are a continuum of constant genetic changes and mutations. Therefore, there is no such thing as a ‘static’ taxon or species; rather these animals are always evolving and always show anatomical variations. Therefore, when it comes to classifying fossils, especially those of early hominids (e.g., early genus Homo), I find these debates to be unnecessarily complicated. Archaeology should consider that we have only just scratched the surface when understanding our early human past and not try to hurry and classify fossils or get bogged down about classifying an unusual hominin fossil as a ‘new species’.  We still have much to learn about how early human fossils relate to each other. Our sample sizes of early hominin fossils are extremely small as well and come from millions of years of history and across thousands of miles of earth. Different populations, especially if ‘isolated’ for long-periods of time, should show increased biological/anatomical variations from contemporaneous species found elsewhere. A case in point is the Dmanisi fossils, which after 20+ years since they have been discovered, a consensus as to where they fall into the hominin family tree (i.e., their species) has not been formally classified and the debate continues. I personally feel the Dmanisi team is taking very good and cautionary measures before settling upon which ‘species’ is at Dmanisi; although in journals and other published works the Dmanisi team has labeled these hominin fossils to many different species over the years, including but not limited to: Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Homo ergaster, Homo georgicus; the first three species listed all lived at the same time while the last species, Homo georgicus, is a potentially new species classification.

So, is the Linnaean taxonomic system flawed?

Personally, such a characterization of biology distinct from the Linnaean system would call every individual a unique taxon because we all have slightly different physical characteristics which make us all unique. The Linnaean system will not go away and may very likely stay here forever. But for fossil classification, when we lack populations of individuals that were recovered from the same area from about the same time, it is difficult to understand how a few fossils may relate to the greater scheme of evolution. All archaeologists and paleoanthropologists, and anyone else trying to interpret the past from fossil evidence should use as much caution as possible prior to classifying fossils…and many of these professionals do this.

Author Biography:

Winston Zack is a geoarchaeologist and graduate student at University of North Texas. His work has thus far primarily been conducted on Plio-Pleistocene and Pleistocene sites such as Dmanisi, Republic of Georgia and several hominid fossil-bearing sites in Spain. He begins work in Germany on several Pleistocene sites this summer. Much of his research has focused on archaeological sediments and stratigraphy, artefact densities and what these analyses can tell us about hominid procurement, transport and provisioning behaviours. He is currently in the process of coauthoring an article for Quaternary Science Reviews, which will be published in the near future.

Image Sources:

This mission is what’s been passed down to me — to write stories that have been historically absent in this country’s body of literature, to create mirrors for the people who so rarely see themselves inside contemporary fiction, and windows for those who think we are no more than the stereotypes they’re so afraid of. To give young people — and all people — a sense of this country’s brilliant and brutal history, so that no one ever thinks they can walk onto a stage one evening and laugh at another’s too often painful past.
Tyler Knott Gregson and the Intersection of Technology and Poetry

A few years ago, Tyler Knott Gregson stumbled upon a typewriter that changed his life. Using a loose page from a used book, he quickly typed out a poem—the first in what would be known as the Typewriter Series. Using found paper or a blackout method, Gregson has written over a thousand poems that were then scanned and uploaded to his Tumblr—some of which can be found in his recent collection Chasers of the Light.

I’d love it if ya’ll checked out the article I recently wrote for Bookish.com.  It was fun diving into such a fascinating and relevant topic.  I’d love to hear your feedback on it as well, your thoughts on how technology and art are combining today.