DAILY DOSE: New research suggests humans weren’t the first to bury their dead; Global poverty set to destroy the planet.

We’re not so special. Specifically, us Homo sapiens. That’s what a trio of papers basically asserts with its reported discovery about Homo naledi. Per Science,

A trio of papers posted online and presented at a meeting today lays out an astonishing scenario. Roughly 240,000 years ago, they suggest, small-brained human relatives carried their dead through a labyrinth of tight passageways into the dark depths of a vast limestone cave system in South Africa. Working by firelight, these diminutive cave explorers dug shallow graves, sometimes arranging bodies in fetal positions and placing a stone tool near a child’s hand. Some etched cave walls with crosshatches and others cooked small animals in what amounted to a subterranean funeral, more than 100,000 years before such behaviors emerged in modern humans.

If true, this scenario, based on a wealth of fossil finds in South Africa’s Rising Star cave system, would have major implications for the dawn of human behavior as well as the abilities of our extinct cousins, Homo naledi. “We are facing a remarkable discovery here of hominids, nonhumans with brains a third of the size of [modern] humans … burying their dead, using symbols, and engaging in meaning-making activities,” team leader Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand said at a press conference. “Not only are [modern] humans not unique in their development of symbolic practices, but [we] may not have even invented such behaviors.”

However, other researchers are overwhelmingly skeptical of the papers, which are in review at the online journal eLife and have been posted on bioRxiv. Researchers say they are wowed by the fossil finds, but the bodies could have simply fallen or been dumped into the pit and been buried slowly by natural processes. Later hominins could have made the etchings, which are undated.

At this point, there have been so many revisions to what our evolutionary ancestors achieved that it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise. https://bit.ly/3WVM2RN

Everyone around the world needs to eat. Usually, that means engaging in some form of cooking. Unfortunately, a staggering number of people continue to rely on fuel that damages the environment, most notably wood and charcoal. Per the Associated Press,

Up to 2.3 billion people around the world are still using polluting fuels to cook and 675 million don’t have electricity, according to a report released Tuesday by five international organizations.

The report said that at current rates, 660 million people are projected to be without electricity and 1.9 billion won’t have clean cooking opportunities by 2030. That’s the target date to achieve a United Nations goal set in 2015 “to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.”

The report by the International Energy Agency, International Renewable Energy Agency, U.N. Statistics Division, World Bank and World Health Organization said that at the midway point toward the goal, the world is not on track to reach the energy target, which will negatively impact the health of millions and accelerate climate change.

“The energy crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to have a profound impact on people all around the world,” International Energy Agency Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement. “High energy prices have hit the most vulnerable hard, particularly those in developing economies.”

This is very much a poverty issue. https://bit.ly/43EJ06C

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Japan is trying to do its part in the fight against global carbon emissions. Per Japan Today,

Japan’s government on Tuesday adopted a revision to the country’s plans to use more hydrogen as fuel as part of the effort to reduce carbon emissions.

The plan sets an ambitious target to increase the annual supply by six times from the current level to 12 million tons by 2040. It also pledges 15 trillion yen in funding from both private and public sources to build up hydrogen-related supply chains over the next 15 years.

Japan’s decarbonization strategy centers on using so-called clean coal, hydrogen and nuclear energy to bridge its transition to renewable energy. Russia’s war on Ukraine has deepened concerns over energy security and complicated that effort, but other advanced Western nations are pushing for faster adoption of renewable energy, such as solar, wind and geothermal.

So far, Japan is relying on hydrogen mainly produced using fossil fuels.

Some experts say strategies like commercializing the use of hydrogen and ammonia mainly cater to big business interests and major industries that are heavily invested in fossil fuel-based technologies and have power over the government policies.

But, hey, its something… right? (Who knows at this point?) https://bit.ly/3NhjeQJ

If you’re interested in a cheat-sheet about some of China’s recent scientific accomplishments, you’re in luck. The Global Times has put one together titled, “Infographic: China’s spectacular scientific achievements progress thanks to non-stop efforts to boost self-sufficiency.” If you can get past the self-stroking title, it’s actually very handy. There’s no denying what they’ve achieved in scientific fields the past fifty years. https://bit.ly/3oOB0kQ

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

IMAGE CREDIT: Cicero Moraes.

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