The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for December 3rd, 2013

heard messages

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It’s dark and cold, and I can’t feel my feet any more.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another Newtown Creek meeting drew me in recently, this time it was the Newtown Creek CAG. CAG stands for Community Advisory Group, and its role is mandated as part of the Superfund process. The EPA was there to discuss and disseminate some early data, which they stressed as being raw and entirely uninterpreted. This is an important distinction for we non scientists to understand, as they distributed disc copies of these early findings to several of us that asked, since a lot of the terms and subjects discussed by these documents can be a little off putting. The presence of arsenic in 100% of sampled sediment may not be something to worry about, after all, as arsenic is actually in 100% of the apples you’ve eaten over the course of your lifetime- its naturally occurring, just like in roses (my analogy, not EPA’s). It’s the “levels of” and “concentrations of” you need to worry about.

from wikipedia

The theory of cognitive dissonance in social psychology proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by altering existing cognitions, adding new ones to create a consistent belief system, or alternatively by reducing the importance of any one of the dissonant elements. Cognitive dissonance is the distressing mental state that people feel when they “find themselves doing things that don’t fit with what they know, or having opinions that do not fit with other opinions they hold.” A key assumption is that people want their expectations to meet reality, creating a sense of control. Likewise, another assumption is that a person will avoid situations or information sources that give rise to feelings of uneasiness, or dissonance.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The EPA data reports are highly technical, and richly illustrated with thousands of photos describing the process of sediment, atmospheric, and water sampling. Materials collected from Newtown Creek are sent to the laboratories of Federal contractors and other specialists, whereupon arcane tests, dilutions, and dissections are performed upon it. The raw data, which was collected during the last couple of years, presents the need for further investigations (which EPA indicates will be commencing in the coming year). The data is housed on 5 DVD’s and as mentioned- is completely uninterpreted. Your humble narrator has just begun to scratch through it, but so far nothing has jumped out at me, other than a vague sort of dread. You really wouldn’t want to swim in English or Dutch Kills, it would seem, and an amazing variety of worms were found living in the sediment layers- some of whom are not native to NY waters and hail from the overseas.

from wikipedia

Affective forecasting can be divided into four components: predictions about emotional valence (i.e. positive or negative), the specific emotions experienced, their duration, and their intensity. While errors may occur in all four components, research overwhelmingly indicates that the two areas most prone to bias, usually in the form of overestimation, are duration and intensity. Immune neglect is a form of impact bias in response to negative events whereby people fail to predict how much their psychological immune system will hasten their recovery. On average, people are fairly accurate about predicting which emotions they will feel in response to future events. However, some studies indicate that predicting specific emotions in response to more complex social events leads to greater inaccuracy. For example, one study found that while many women who imagine encountering gender harassment predict feelings of anger, in reality, a much higher proportion report feelings of fear. Other research suggests that accuracy in affective forecasting is greater for positive affect than negative affect, suggesting an overall tendency to overreact to perceived negative events.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The CAG is a good group, a sort of congress for those of us whom the Newtown Creek has claimed. The Newtown Creek Alliance is well represented, as is Riverkeeper, NCMC, the local elected officials, corporate and Business Improvement District associations, and the so called “Responsible Parties.”

These “Responsible Parties” are those corporate entities who have entered into an agreement with EPA which names them as culpable for the environmental issues that drew the Federal agency’s notice in the first place, and which binds the various corporations named so into financially and materially supporting the clean up process and its monumental cost. EPA acts independently, but the CAG exists to alert EPA to the unexpected or tangential results of the Superfund process and creates a point of access to its managers. It’s as complicated a set of relationships as you can get, I suppose, the sort of thing a person like me avoids like the plague- but at least I get to be around people.

The meetings are public, you know!

from wikipedia

The term fallacy is often used generally to mean an argument that is problematic for any reason, whether it is formal or informal.

The presence of a formal fallacy in a deductive argument does not imply anything about the argument’s premises or its conclusion. Both may actually be true, or even more probable as a result of the argument, but the deductive argument is still invalid because the conclusion does not follow from the premises in the manner described. By extension, an argument can contain a formal fallacy even if the argument is not a deductive one; for instance an inductive argument that incorrectly applies principles of probability or causality can be said to commit a formal fallacy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Interesting things reveal themselves occasionally. Something which came up last year at a CAG meeting, for instance, was that business owners around the Maspeth Creek area were having a difficult time securing long term credit due to trepeditious inclinations displayed by the banking community toward lending to clients with unknown environmental liabilities. Another was that there’s a strata of discarded metro cards lodged in the sediment. When I get through the stack of discs, I’ll let y’all know what I think I see, but we will all have to wait for the interpretation which will be offered by someone else who is smart enough to actually understand it. Addled, my aging mind can barely comprehend the meaning of these dancing columns of numbers, nor the multitudinously cryptic scatter graphs, and photos of those dark things which slither and flop through the Black Mayonnaise.

from wikipedia

In science, cognition is a group of mental processes that includes the attention of working memory, producing and comprehending language, learning, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making. Various disciplines, such as psychology, philosophy and linguistics all study cognition. However, the term’s usage varies across disciplines; for example, in psychology and cognitive science, “cognition” usually refers to an information processing view of an individual’s psychological functions. It is also used in a branch of social psychology called social cognition to explain attitudes, attribution, and groups dynamics. In cognitive psychology and cognitive engineering, cognition is typically assumed to be information processing in a participant’s or operator’s mind or brain.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 3, 2013 at 7:30 am

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