Highlights of UBC media coverage in December 2011.



The Keystone XL pipeline that would move crude oil from northern Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico, and the Enbridge Inc. pipeline that would connect northern Alberta to an oil-shipping terminal in Kitimat, B.C., made news this month. Professors George Hoberg, Paul Tennant, Gordon Christie and Michael Byers provided expert commentary to Maclean’s, the Financial Post, the Montreal Gazette, the Vancouver Sun and others.

“The risks to British Columbia are enormous, given the rivers that the pipeline will have to cross that are cherished salmon streams, and the tanker risk once they leave the port of Kitimat,” said resource policy professor George Hoberg, about the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project in the Calgary Sun.

Income inequality

The Vancouver Sun invited five UBC economics professors — David Green, Thomas Lemieux, Kevin Milligan, Craig Riddell and Nicole Fortin — to write about the issue of income inequality in Canada. The Sun published a four-part series of essays that explored why income inequality has increased since the 1980s and what, if anything, should be done about it.

“There is no doubt that earnings inequality has risen in Canada in the last three decades,” they wrote.

In a later essay describing the forces that drive income inequality, they wrote: “These forces paint a somewhat bleak picture of a loss of solid paying jobs to a combination of technological change, outsourcing, and declining unionization. It is the young and poorly educated who have borne the brunt of these forces.”


?Even babies like to see bad guys punished

Infants as young as five months old like to see bad behaviour punished and good conduct rewarded, according to a new study led by psychology professor Kiley Hamlin.

The Daily Mail, Discover Magazine, CTV, Toronto Star and others reported on Hamlin’s research that found that even at such early ages, babies have developed senses of right and wrong, suggesting the sense of social justice is part of our make-up.

“Somehow between age five and eight months, the babies get this much more nuanced perception, the ability to interpret circumstances,” Hamlin said.

Religious people believe atheists not to be trusted

A new study finds that atheists are among society’s most distrusted group, comparable even to rapists in certain circumstances, reported USA Today, Washington Post, ABC News, Times of India, National Post and others.

Researchers at UBC and the University of Oregon conducted a series of studies that found a deep level of distrust toward those who don’t believe in God in societies where believers form the majority of the population. The researchers say that their study demonstrates that anti-atheist prejudice stems from moral distrust, not dislike of nonbelievers.

“There’s this persistent belief that people behave better if they feel like God is watching them,” said Will Gervais, lead study author and doctoral candidate in UBC’s Psychology Dept. “So if you’re playing by those rules, you’re going to see other people’s religious beliefs as signals of how trustworthy they might be.”

Fishing trends threaten marine predators

Current fishing trends are making iconic marine predators such as sharks, tuna, swordfish and marlin increasingly rare, says a study by UBC researchers that was reported on by United Press International, the Canadian Press and the Toronto Sun.

“Top marine predators are more intrinsically vulnerable to the effects of fishing due to their life histories. Bluefin tuna, for instance, cannot reproduce until age nine,” said Laura Tremblay-Boyer, a PhD student at the UBC Fisheries Center.

Researchers from UBC modeled the impact of fishing around the world using global databases of fisheries catches from 1950 to 2006. They found a 90 percent decrease in the populations of top predators since the 1950s