Class #4 - Spotting Fake News: How to Analyze the Validity of Claims about the Environment 

October 6, 2020  

  Speaker Bios 


"Susan Spotless" 1961 PSA -  with sound

Ethan Siegel, You Must Not "Do Your Own Research" When it Comes to Science. July 30, 2020

For Group Session:

Read this short article summarizing an investigation by NPR and Frontline on the plastic industry’s attempts to promote recycling, even though they knew little of it can be recycled.  Plastic wars: Industry spent millions selling recycling – to sell more plastic. NPR, March 31, 2020.

For Debate:

We will be engaged in a small group debate during this class. Your meaningful participation depends on reading these short articles and watching a short video ahead of class.

The debate focuses on a proposal by the US Fish and Wildlife Center to eradicate the highly invasive house mouse population on the Farallon Islands by distributing poison pellets. This proposal has been reviewed by the California Coastal Commission, which has deferred a decision pending further study and review. 

The following four resources will give you a good sense of the pros and cons of the plan.

As you read each article, jot down your thoughts and reactions to help you remember and reflect on what was said. 

  • Did you have an initial predisposition to favor one side or the other? If so, what experiences or values may have led you to this predisposition?

  • Were you able to get a sense of the source of information used in arguments on both sides? 

  • Did you have the sense that each side had considered and rebutted the opposing point of view?

  • Which side did you come down on? What were the most compelling arguments?

Environmental significance of the Farallon Islands: Watch 10 minute video embedded in KQED news article from July 10, 2019.


Overview of Farallon Islands Mouse Eradication ProjectThe US wants to dump 1.5 tons of rat poison pellets on the Farallon Islands. Biologists say it’s for the best. Los Angeles Times, July 7, 2019. 

Statement in favor of mouse rodenticide option: An important moment for conservation on the Farallon Islands. Position statement from Point Blue Conservation Science, July 2, 2019:

What is Point Blue Conservation Science (from their website):

At the core of our work is innovative science, studying birds and other environmental indicators to protect nature’s benefits. Using our long-term data from the Palomarin Field Station, the Farallon Islands, and other places, we evaluate natural and human-driven change over time. We guide our partners in adaptive management for improved conservation outcomes. We publish our findings in peer-reviewed journals and contribute to the "conservation commons" of open access scientific knowledge. 

Statement opposing mouse rodenticide option: “The mouse eradication project on the Farallon Islands: The ‘con’ in conservation”. Article originally posted in Huffington Post, January 7, 2013 by Maggie Sergio.

Who is Maggie Sergio? (Bio from Huffington Post website)

Maggie Sergio is a conservationist, environmental educator and writer. She has researched and written about a wide range of environmental issues including the impact of rodenticides (rat poisons) on wildlife, the open-air testing of experimental pesticides and GMOs in Hawaii and the little known industry behind the practice of island eradications. Maggie founded Island Watch Conservation Science, a non-profit dedicated to shedding light on the exploitation of islands around the world.

Worksheet for Critical Thinking Exercise: Critical Thinking Worksheet FINAL 10-4-20.docx

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