Civicist: How the Crowd Could Help Keep Zinke Accountable

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke says he wants to be neighborly.

In late April, President Trump ordered the Department of the Interior to review the National Monuments created or enlarged by the Antiquities Act—27 National Monuments in all—with an eye to shrinking or even eliminating some of them. Shortly after, the Department announced that they would give Americans the opportunity to voice their opinion during a public comment period. In the press release Secretary Zinke said he wanted to be a “good neighbor” by “listening to the American people who we represent.”

More than 1.4 million comments poured in between May 11 and July 10, and now that the comment period is over, The Wilderness Society wants to ensure that Secretary Zinke follows through on his promise. The organization has asked their supporters to participate in a crowdsourced audit of the comments to see where Americans’ sentiments lie. The audit will also use machine learning to assess the remainder of the 1.4 million comments that volunteers can’t get to themselves. Read more…

Civicist: In Ecuador, Waorani Communities Use Open-Source Tools to Collaboratively Map Their Territory

Yasuni National Park in the Ecuadorian Amazon is shaped like a mechanical claw, or the open jaws of a craggy, prehistoric reptile. It grasps in its mouth roughly half of the land titled to the Waorani, one of the country’s indigenous nationalities. Peering down at the Google Earth view it’s impossible to tell where one might begin and the other might end. Dark green tree cover obscures a web of settlements, hunting paths, fishing holes, and water sources, making the area appear nearly empty. The Waorani describe the government maps of the area as similarly empty or “dead.” Using low-connectivity tools, they have begun mapping their territory as they see it, both for their own edification, and in case they need to defend their land rights.

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Brooklyn Magazine: Parrots And Guide: One Of The Last Unadulterated Quirks of Brooklyn?

In the 1970s a group of Argentinian exiles escaped captivity at JFK airport. They settled down in Brooklyn, built homes from scratch and started families. I speak, of course, of the elusive Wild Quaker Parrots, also known as the Monk Parrot.

Once a month, Steve Baldwin leads a group of bird-watchers and curiosity-seekers on a Wild Quaker Parrot Safari near Brooklyn College. I joined him on his most recent expedition, and the parrots were a riot—the guide even more so. Read more…