Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Wildfire and Climate Change 3

Not too hard to connect the dots between the current wildfires in Southern California, the unusually warm weather, and long-term trends in climate change, though, strictly speaking, the conclusion of the study in Science is several dots away from making this a direct connection.

More commentary over at Gristmill, by Maywa Montenegro, on the attitudes we should adopt: half skeptical pragmatism (skeptical, that is, that the trend can be shifted before we have to respond to its more drastic effects) and half optimism that political action on energy consumption and fuel sources can stall further warming.

Blogging for Academics

I decline to comment on the politics of the Juan Cole affair--the issue is whether the controversial ideas expressed in his blog had an effect on his failing to receive a position at Yale.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has invited seven bloggers to comment on various issues the case raises--on politics, blogging, and being a public intellectual (and has uncharacteristically made the forum free for non-subscribers. Hooray!). What are the hazards of academic blogging? Indeed, what are its benefits? To the blogger, to their academic communities, to the broader public?

For one thing, academics blog about a range of topics. Some are mostly personal, and some discuss their professional setting in a personal way. Privacy issues arise. But what about blogs that are continuous with a person's (or a group's) academic activities? Is blogging a distraction from our work, is it a complement to our work, is it (can it be) a part of our work?

It certainly seems plausible that there are individual benefits for the academic blogger, and that these may vary according to where the person teaches, her rank, her other academic obligations, her experience:
- frequent writing exercise. This may be especially helpful for graduate students or other inexperienced, rusty, or blocked writers.
- an informal venue in which to work out half-done thoughts
- a place to get feedback other than at conferences (especially for those with limited travel funds or travel abilities)
- a way of keeping track of ideas that have not yet found a home in a scholarly paper, and a way of keeping track of sources and examples
And there are surely community benefits as well:
- group blogs can unite a coherent core of bloggers (and readers) to discuss academic topics
- informal exchange of ideas (through comments) that does not depend on being invited into a social network--and that can extend social networks
- a central location for storing calls for papers, announcements, and book reviews that is more easily searchable and more optional than listserves
- through the blog's very publicity, in comparison to listserves, it permits easy access to newcomers and an exchange (or flow) of ideas from one academic subcommunity to another via links
- again, via links, blogs encourage permeability between academic exchanges and real-world events and non-academic readers which are rare through venues like conferences
Some communities and community members stand to benefit more than others. Although some blogs are guarded by gatekeepers, which reinforce the prestige of those associated with them (need I mention a particular philosophy blog?), blogging is also open to all comers--beyond the policing of pre-set standards--and so encouraging of experiment and innovation. The structure of blogging therefore explains their popularity among graduate students and young academics. It should also be attractive to other academic groups that struggle with feeling marginalized or are spread thinly among institutions.

Finally, weblogs are a venue for public intellectuals--something philosophers and feminists should aspire to.
About the benefits of blogging, Brad DeLong writes:
Plus — and this is the biggest plus — it is a play in the intellectual influence game. My blog got about 20,000 page-views a day last month.
And Michael Berube adds:
And though there are people who consider my blogging a waste of time, my guess is that many of them see writing for newspapers and magazines to be a waste of time as well.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Evidence in medicine: Preeclampsia

Again on the theme of pregnancy, the July 24 issue of the New Yorker (not available online) contains an article by Jerome Groopman on the "The Preeclampsia Puzzle."Preeclampsia is characterized by high maternal blood pressure and protein in the urine; it can also cause kidney and liver problems, hemorrhage, and stroke. It affects 5% or more of pregnancies in the US, and globally it is a leading cause of maternal death and of lasting complications for mothers and infants.

The cause of preeclampsia is unknown, and the recommended treatment is delivery of the baby ASAP. Although the complex causal pathways that lead up to many diseases are unknown, it is worth pointing out that there is something special about pregnancy disorders: they are not well-studied.

There are several reasons for this. Fetuses cannot consent to participate in clinical trials. Pregnant women, understandably, are not motivated to take on risks to their pregnancy and fetus in order to test new drugs and therapies. Moreover, in some cases, as in preeclampsia, the best available treatment is to deliver the baby, which precludes further testing or treatment in utero.

But if pregnancies are so valuable, shouldn't it be possible to overcome some of these obstacles? Perhaps by running larger trials which permit deeper statistical inferences. But large trials take funding, and this is what the New Yorker article has to say:
Among medical researchers, obstetrics is often regarded as a dead end. "An enterprising young physician-researcher who seeks to make his [sic] name in a field faces huge hurdles if he wants to work with pregnant women"..."Our ability to truly understand what goes on in the fetus is poor," he [Sachs] said. "You can't predict physiologically how a fetus is going to respond to some treatment given to the mother. So people are very hesitant to do this kind of research, and the committees that protoect human subjects are, by and large, gun-shy"..."The only large clinical trials that have been going on involve innocuous treatments, like antioxidants, low-dose aspirin, or supplements like calcium," Sachs said.

Disorders of pregnancy receive relatively little research from the federal government, even though they exact a considerable medical and financial toll.
But it is not just studies of treatments that cannot get off the ground. Even descriptive studies and the development of registries for tracking diseases of pregnancy and post-delivery outcomes are lacking. As with gestational diabetes, the exact rates of preeclampsia in the US are not known, nor are the contributing factors well understood.

The culture of obstetrics is not oriented toward identifying causes that would permit prevention. This is also a relevant topic for feminist bioethics. As Laura Purdy has argued in her article, "What feminism can do for bioethics," bioethicists can and should take on advocacy tasks that shift the way that research is ordered and prioritized.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

HPV Vaccine vs. Pap Smears? What's wrong here?

Thanks to Evelyn for inviting me to contribute. I was working on a more theoretical post about feminist philosophers of science and what, if anything, they should want to say about the issue of scientific realism/antirealism and I hope to post something on that later, but I had a negative reaction to an essay, “A New Vaccine for Girls, but Should It Be Compulsory?”, by Roni Rabin on the opinion page in the NYT today and so I wanted to say something in response to it.

First, the parts I think are right. Yes, we should be careful when advocating compulsory health care. Yes, we should make it possible for all women to get routine Pap smears. Both of these points seem right, but this argument is constructed in such a way that one might walk away thinking that Pap smears will prevent cervical cancer and so there is really no need for this vaccine, end of story. But this is disingenuous and misleading. It isn’t Pap smears that prevent cervical cancer. Pap smears alert us to the need to proceed to other procedures that can prevent cervical cancer. So they are necessary but not sufficient. Since the current vaccine prevents only the four of the most common forms of HPV (which account for 70% of cervical cancers), it is not sufficient to prevent cervical cancer either and so does not eliminate the need for Pap smears. The lesson here should be that this is not an either/or situation; the ideal is both vaccine and Paps.

There’s another concern that I have though. Rabin focuses on the number of deaths from cervical cancer (relatively low) and notes that these have been and can continue to be reduced though Pap smears as part of routine health care for women. True, but the medical cost of HPV should not be weighed only in terms of deaths. Women whose immune systems do not automatically clear the virus will need more frequent Pap smears (every three or 6 months rather than once a year) and may also need more invasive treatment to remove dysplasic cells. These treatments, such as the LEEP procedure, while done on an outpatient basis, can be uncomfortable and expensive. Repeated incidents of “bad” Pap results can mean multiple procedures. The jury is out on whether and if so to what extent repeated procedures compromise cervical competence and so put future pregnancies at risk. (Samson SL, Bentley JR, Fahey TJ, et al: The effect of loop electrosurgical excision procedure on future pregnancy outcome. Obstet Gynecol 2005 Feb; 105(2): 325-32.) So while certainly the most frightening cost of HPV is cervical cancer it is not the only cost.

Given a political climate in which it has already been suggested that this vaccine should not be offered because it will encourage sexual promiscuousness, I think we need to be very clear about just what and are not the consequences of advocating particular public health policies. While I fully agree that it should be a public health priority to ensure that all women are informed and able to get Pap smears as part of their routine health care, I do not think we should be seeing this as an alternative to making use of a vaccine that can cut out the possibility of contracting the forms of HPV which result in 70% of cervical cancers. This strikes me as another case of false economic reasoning about health care that occurs in a society that does not have health care as a priority for all of its citizens.

General information about the vaccine from the CDC here.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Women in Science: Experiencing both sides

According to this Washington Post article, the Stanford neurobiologist Ben Barres has a commentary in Nature this week (by subscription only) on the differences between his professional treatment as a woman (Barbara Barres) and as a man, after sexual reassignment. A profile of Barres was published in Nature online last year. Barres describes how he is treated with more respect as a man than he was as a woman.

Barres describes various forms of intentional and unintentional bias that limit women's opportunities in science (and, presumably, some other academic fields). In some form of journalistic balance, the Post article also interviews Stephen Pinker, "who said he is a feminist," and who holds that there are innate differences in men's and women's cognitive abilities. Pinker has not yet revealed the source of his insight into bare innate cognitive differences in fully trained professionals who have had life-long gendered social experiences to shape their cognitive development and professional stature. (See also a post by Majikthise.)

Update: Jim Johnson, at Politics, Theory, Photography, points out that the Nature commentary, titled "Does Gender Matter?" is really about whether or not there are innate SEX differences in cognitive ability, and the good reasons for thinking that there are not (or, at least, that if there are, they are indistinguishable from and minor relative to the impact of culture and acculturation). That perceived gender does matter is what makes Barres' standpoint a noteworthy source of insight.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Women in Science: InterAcademy Council report

Although women are earning more degrees in science, engineering, and technology than in previous decades--over 50% of U.S. undergraduate degrees in the life sciences now go to women--they continue to be drastically underrepresented at further career stages, and particularly in top positions. Women make up 10% of the membership of the National Academies of Science. Women's participation is higher in some areas than others: there are 82 members of the engineering sciences section, and 2 of them are women.

The international council of national academies of science has released a report on the status of women in the sciences. The report emphasizes solving the leakiest parts of the pipeline--graduate education, workplace advancement, and centers of prestige such as national academies themselves. It argues that women's ability to advance into the top tier of research scientists has as much to do with management and social environment as it does with individual women's promise and achievements.

A tragic expression of the frustration that women encounter is covered in this news story about the death of Denice Denton, chancellor of UC Santa Cruz.

On a side note, the representation of women in philosophy is higher than in engineering, roughly equivalent to physics, and lower than other sciences.

Science and Journalism

Both science and journalism have standards of objective evidence that require adopting a critical stance and exploring alternative explanations for observed events. But objectivity in science is not achieved by exactly the same methods as objectivity in journalism. And in both cases, there is a limit to critical doubt--scientists must trust their observations, even when these are unexpected, and journalists must extend some trust to their sources. Doubting and trusting are both essential elements for countering bias.

Adventures in Science and Ethics reflects on what is happening when journalists question scientific sources excessively
. For one thing, there can be a psychological dance that inhibits trust, in that each party could have an advocacy agenda. That is, scientists--in some cases--may be misconstruing results, intentionally or not. And for their part, journalists--sometimes--may be hoping for a particular angle that would serve their own views or add drama to a story. As Stamwedel points out, discomfort with the uncertainty that is inherent in science may also complicate communication.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Communicating Science for Policy

As important as the Westerling et al. report is (see 2 previous posts), it is weak in clarifying the implications of the report for policy.

First, some background. Discussion of fire activity usually focuses on land-use history, and particularly on the legacy of fire suppression. That is, in some western forests, eighty years of suppressing wildfires has produced denser forest growth with more closed canopies and shifts in the predominant tree species. Before the 20th century, some of these forests experienced natural (or intentionally set) fires every ten years or less. Frequent fires produced an open, park-like forest that supported grass fires which didn't kill most mature trees. Dense, closed-canopy forests with heavy litter, on the other hand, burn dramatically and unpredictably. Some forests, especially in the subalpine regions of the Rocky Mountains, are naturally dense and have supported severe fire regimes for centuries.

Westerling et al. conclude that the largest fires—and the greatest rise in wildfires—in the past three decades have mostly occurred in such naturally dense sub-alpine forests. These fires are apparently correlated with changes in hydroclimate, but they are in forests which are relatively unaffected by land use history and by the legacy of fire suppression.

But this is not surprising. Unlike Ponderosa pine forests of the Southwest and California, subalpine Rocky Mt. forests do burn big, when they burn. So, it is not surprising that if there is an increase in fire size, it would be in those areas. And it is also well-accepted that past large fire events in these areas have been associated with drought.

It is not clear what the authors hope to gain by playing the two causes of increased fire activity (climate change and land-use history) off of one another. They demonstrate a relationship between large fires in subalpine forests and climate change that is more significant than we had previously recognized. But this does nothing to diminish the importance of the causal role of land-use history in areas of the Southwest and West Coast where the impacts of grazing, timbering, and fire suppression are more profound.

Although some careful distinctions are made in the body of the report, there are also generalized, misleading statements. The authors imply that forest restoration and fuels treatments will be “ineffective.” A more contextual stance is required for three reasons:

1.) Advocates of forest restoration do not hold that a return to pre-(Euro-)settlement forest structure is a panacea, nor that restoration should be used to alter natural fire regimes. If the climate-caused increase in wildfires is seen in regions with natural stand-replacement fire regimes, then there is no conflict with the policy of restorationists to use fuel treatment and prescribed burning where appropriate in order to reproduce the forest structure of understory fire regimes.

2.) Some advocates of fuels treatments are concerned exclusively with using cutting and burning techniques and silviculture to restore altered fire regimes (especially in Ponderosa pine forests). Others have advocated more radical and expensive measures with the primary goal of limiting the spread of massive wildfires. This latter position should be distinguished from a restorationist approach because it advocates changing historical fire regimes. The real debate in this case is over feasibility: can preventive tactics control fire spread in subalpine forests, and would they be more cost-effective than current firefighting techniques? This is a policy question. It does not hang off of discovering the cause of wildfire activity. Such radical fuel treatments may actually be more necessary in the face of increased fire activity, especially since large fires feed global warming significantly. Whether fuels treatments are “ineffective” has not been analyzed one way or the other by this research.

3.) The authors motivate concern about wildfires by referring to the hundreds of homes that are burned annually. This raises yet another policy issue, and one that is again unrelated to the substance of the paper. Implying an association between an increase in large fires and the loss of homes is disingenuous because most of such damage occurs at the urban-wildland interface, and mostly in California. Areas such as the recent fires in San Diego and in Texas and Oklahoma are not the primary concern of this report, which focuses on subalpine areas like those in sparsely populated Idaho and Montana.

The authors have tried to draw implications for policy. Unlike their scientific reasoning, their expression of policy implications is muddled and misleading. Why indulge in such rhetoric? Especially since substantive statements about the urgency of controlling global warming are conspicuously absent. Global warming is the real issue here, not fire policy. Perhaps this shift in rhetorical emphasis away from the real implications of the study should not be surprising, given the political environment.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Wildfire and Climate Change 2

More commentary on Westerling et al's report in Science on global warming and western wildfires:

1. It is not news that there is a link between global warming and wildfires via atmospheric carbon dioxide. The source of nearly 40% of global atmospheric carbon is what Stephen Pyne (historian of wildfire) calls "open burning" of living biomass, as opposed to internal combustion of fossil fuels. The news is that not only do forest fires fuel global warming, but also that climate change is apparently causing increased wildfire activity, a feed-forward cycle that could accelerate the rate of increase in atmospheric carbon. It will be interesting to see whether these results are replicated in other areas of the globe. Similar mechanisms could be at work, for instance, in Siberia, another region of large wildfires where the timing of snowmelt could affect fire seasons.

2. The possibility of several confounding factors is not discussed in the Science report.
a. Could the increase in the incidence and size of large fires on public lands in the mid-1980s be associated with changes in federal fire control policy and with how firefighting resources were deployed?
b. The area with the greatest increase in fire activity shows a link to warm temperatures and drought because the level of fuel moisture and the length of the dry season are tied to snowmelt. These also happen to be among the most inaccessible of areas to firefighting crews and some of the hardest areas to monitor for early ignition warnings. Their inaccessibility could be linked to the growth of small fires into larger ones, accounting in part for the differences between subalpine forests and the other study areas which did not see such large increases in fire activity.

3. The authors emphasize the interactive relationship between climate as a cause of increased wildfire activity and land-use as a cause, in that increasing drought can affect land management, especially in the Southwest. I hope this complexity is not lost in news reports.

4. The study raises interesting questions about how increased fire frequency and size and decreased fire intervals may change forest structure and composition in the long term. There are also interesting questions to be addressed about effects on wildlife and the interactions between warmer and longer summers, increased fire activity, and forest pests.

Higher Education and Gender

Feministe comments on the New York Times' series of articles about how men and women perform in college. Sometimes referred to as an increasing gender gap, women are earning higher college grades and more bachelor's degrees than men. Does this add up to more advancement of women in the workplace? The devil is in the details.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Global Warming

1. A recommendation to see the movie about Al Gore's slide show on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth.
How can a movie which is little more than a computer slideshow lecture be so engaging? It doesn't drag and the viewer is bound to be thinking about it days later. I think the answer is that the evidence he presents is truly compelling.
The photographic evidence of glaciers retreating in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa is only one of a litany of types of evidence that the climate is changing, that the change is at least in part due to human activities, and that the rate of change is accelerating.

Critics can only attack one of these conclusions: that the change is due to human activities. For the practical among us, it's academic to debate the exact degree of blame and where it falls when the bottom line is that coastlines will be changing and that people dependent on glacial melt for drinking water are getting thirsty. IF human actions can reverse or stabilize the trend, regardless of its cause, what are the reasons for not signing on?

One of the movie's points which is worth repeating is that there is a gap between everyday human-scale experience and the effects of global warming. Although there can never be evidence that a particular hurricane would not have occurred if car emission standards were stricter, it takes experiences that are personal to motivate belief and then action. Gore argues that the scale of the danger presented by global warming is outside the range of other catastrophic experiences that are tangible within a human lifetime. It is also out of scale (both geographically and temporally) with other natural/social problems which policies have been able to solve (e.g., the eradication of smallpox). This quality lends the problem unique urgency while also threatening to paralyze movement toward solutions.

This movie is headed for heavy classroom rotation, I predict. We can hope that it will also provide a model for how to give a good slide-based lecture: use slides for visual evidence, not as a substitute for lecturing skill and careful preparation.

2. A report in this week's Science about the association between wildfires in the western US and climate change:
Westerling, A.L. et al. Warming and earlier spring increases western U.S. forest wildfire activity. (8 July 2006).

The study has two parts: First, it documents an increase in wildfire activity in the western U.S. for the period 1987-2003 as compared with the period 1970-1986. 'Increase in activity' means a nearly fourfold increase in the frequency of large wildfires (fires > 400 ha) and greater than a sixfold increase in area of forest burned. The greatest increase was in the Northern Rockies at mid-elevations. The Southwest showed a similar trend on a relative size basis but the study region was smaller. Second, the authors examined the relationship between the increase in fire activity and regional changes in climate and hydrology. They found that the increase was associated with longer fire seasons, warmer spring temperatures, earlier spring snowmelt, and increased summer drought. These climate and hydrology factors were most pronounced in the Northern Rockies, precisely the area which has seen the most increased wildfire activity in the past two decades.

The study strongly suggests that climate changes which are of a piece with other effects of global warming are a significant cause of our largest and most severe wildfires. The mid-elevation Rocky Mountain areas most affected by an earlier and quicker spring snowmelt are also those areas which are typically covered by lodgepole pine and spruce-fir forests--forest types that are conducive to dramatic, explosive crown fires.

The burning issue here is that forests are carbon sinks and a significant hedge against further increases in the atmospheric carbon levels that are linked to climate change. In Alaska and northern Canada, warmer temperatures have been conducive to the spread of pests that attack and thin the boreal forests, reducing their ability to store carbon. This new study indicates that more temperate forests are likewise at risk of feeding an acceleration of global warming rather than shielding against it.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Film: Water

In 2000, I read about Water, the third film in Deepa Mehta's trilogy about women in India. It has finally been released this summer. Set in 1938, it examines the lives of widows, who are condemned to a marginal existence, living in an ashram and dependent on begging (and prostitution) in order to survive. The main character becomes a widow at the age of seven.

The initial filming had to be scrapped because of the political pressure of fundamentalist protests against its negative depiction of Hindu traditions. Filming resumed four years later in Sri Lanka rather than India, and after additional funds could be raised.

The cinematography is gorgeous, and the story and social background are sufficiently complex to make the film worth assigning in women's studies classes.

The political background to the making of the film adds another interesting layer. The reason that protesters gave for burning the set and causing location permissions to be revoked was that the film pandered to an outdated Western vision of India as a land of child brides and social stratification. But widow houses do still exist in Varanasi, the first film location. Certainly, in addition to depicting the social situation of widows in India in 1938, the film invites viewers around the globe to reflect on forms of social exclusion in their own communities.

Monday, July 03, 2006

SAF call for papers

Society for Analytical Feminism:
Feminist Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition


SAF Session at the Central Division APA Meetings
Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, Illinois
April 18-21, 2007

The Society seeks papers that examine feminist issues by methods
broadly construed as analytic, or discuss the use of analytic
philosophical methods as applied to feminist issues. Reading time
should be about 20 minutes. Authors should submit four copies of
either (1) a paper, or (2) an extended abstract, as detailed as
possible (up to 1000 words) accompanied by a bibliography. Please
delete all self-identifying references from your submission to ensure
anonymity. Submissions should be POSTMARKED no later than Monday,
October 9th, 2006. Submission information is available on the Society's website.

The Society for Analytical Feminism provides a forum where issues
concerning analytical feminism may be openly discussed and examined.
Its purpose is to promote the study of issues in feminism by methods
broadly construed as analytic, to examine the use of analytic methods
as applied to feminist issues, and to provide a means by which those
interested in Analytical Feminism may meet and exchange ideas. The
Society meets yearly at the Central Division meetings of the APA, and
frequently organizes sessions for the Eastern Division and Pacific
Divisions as well.

Off the subject: Trees

A blog carnival, Festival of the Trees, at Via Negativa.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Women and Blogging

Via Feministe, a report that half of US-based bloggers are women. I'm not sure if this is news, since Women's E-news reported nearly the same thing almost two years ago.

But if half of bloggers are women, why isn't there parity in the academic blogosphere? And specifically, why are so few authors and contributors to philosophical blogs women?

A brief survey of some philosophy group blogs shows that the percentage of female contributors is lower, even, than women's representation in the profession, which by most counts is somewhere between 20 and 25%:
PEA Soup has--what?--one female contributor out of 20.
Certain Doubts has a representation of about 13% women among its dozens of contributors.
Experimental Philosophy has one female contributor out of 22.
The Garden of Forking Paths has two out of 38.
Prosblogion, with none.

This is not to say that women philosophers are absent:
Janet Stemwedel's Adventures in Ethics and Science is not only philosophical, but also sometimes takes on gender issues.
The Women's Bioethics Blog is a collaboration between bioethicists, philosophers, and medical practitioners.

A possible explanation for the disparity, suggested by Laurie Shrage, is that since many bloggers are in the junior faculty stage of their careers, this absence says something about the pressures women are under. Another possible explanation is that group blogs, in particular, reflect social networking in philosophical subfields, and some of those networks are relatively closed to women.

This issue calls for more investigation, and in particular it raises questions about whether blogging helps or distracts from academic work. Stay tuned for blogger interviews.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Ecology and Values: Harm (and recovery?) in estuaries

A report in the latest Science on human-caused habitat loss:
Lotze, H.K. et al. Depletion, degradation, and recovery potential of estuaries and coastal seas. Vol. 312 (23 June 2006): 1806-1809.

This study of species distributions for ancient and recent sites of human settlement on estuaries and coastal seas compares historical baselines (recovered from paleontological and ecological records) with post-settlement conditions. It finds that human-caused overexploitation and habitat loss explains about 95% of observed declines in species richness. The sites were picked from various continents (mostly Europe and N. America), including the Chesapeake Bay, Galveston Bay, and the north Adriatic. Patterns of decline in each system were similar, commonly destroying over 65% of seagrass and accelerating the rate of species invasions by exotics. Systems with the longest history of intense human impacts were the most degraded.

This sounds like overwhelmingly BAD NEWS. Human settlement on coastlines is associated with severe declines in diversity and productivity.

Two points about how these results are reported:

1. The rhetoric of bad news is always accompanied by a promise for recovery. Maybe things aren't as bad as they seem: "It's important to rescue the frog." In fact, a graph in the report depicts very moderate improvement scenarios over the next century even in the best of situations and the text indicates, "Despite some extinctions, most species and functional groups persist, albeit in greatly reduced numbers. Thus the potential for recovery remains."
In spite of such restrained language, the news report in Science portrays the results far more optimistically, saying that the study indicates "that well-targeted management can reverse destructive trends" (1713). Mainstream news reports consistently conclude with this positive message.

2. This study in historical ecology provides detailed evidence of the type and degree of declines in relative abundance and species richness. It does not actually provide evidence of whether or how the situation can be improved. In this, the conclusions exceed the available evidence. Work on historical baselines is essential for establishing the magnitude of the problem, but it is far from being integrated with management.