New global population predictions
published in Science today says that world population stabilisation is unlikely this century, with an 80% probability that world population, now 7.2 billion, will increase to between 9.6 and 12.3 billion in 2100, greatly exceeding previous consensus figures that settled around 9 billion, and is expected to keep growing next century. More
in the Guardian.
Halfway through my three-week, 417-mile journey down the “most endangered” river in America, the water began flowing backward and the mud started talking.
It spoke in baritone gurgles, like Barry White trapped in a bong.
You know what this is, John?
No, Barry White mud.
This is QUICKSAND
Wilson recently calculated that the only way humanity could stave off a mass extinction crisis, as devastating as the one that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, would be to set aside half the planet as permanently protected areas for the ten million other species. “Half Earth,” in other words, as I began calling it—half for us, half for them. [more inside]
An Oxford University study of over 50,000 participants, published this month in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal Climatic Change
: Dietary greenhouse gas emissions in meat-eaters are twice as high as those in vegans
is a perfect introduction to one of the Obama era’s great conservative subcultures: the men and women who “roll coal.” For as little as $500, anyone with a diesel truck and a dream can install a smoke stack and the equipment that lets a driver “trick the engine” into needing more fuel. The result is a burst of black smoke that doubles as a political or cultural statement—a protest against the EPA, a ritual shaming of hybrid “rice burners,” and a stellar source of truck memes." [more inside]
In his new book Ciphers
, German photographer Christopher Gielen
) reveals haunting images of our endlessly repetitive development through aerial views of American urban sprawl. [more inside]
This morning the U.S. government released
the newest National Climate Assessment, which "concludes that the evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the country." You can explore the assessment here. Previously.
The Dead Zoo Gang
"Over the last several years, millions of dollars worth of antique rhino horns have been stolen from natural history museum collections around the world. The only thing more unusual than the crimes is the theory about who is responsible: A handful of families from rural Ireland known as the Rathkeale Rovers." (Via
In his 1996 book The Song of the Dodo, David Quammen observed that if you destroy most of a habitat and leave only a small patch of wilderness behind, you have effectively created an island—and islands, for complex ecological reasons, sustain far fewer species and far more extinctions than mainlands. Now watch things get complicated. At the same time that our logging, mining, farming, road-building, suburban-sprawling species is turning the entire planet into an archipelago, “global trade and travel do the reverse: they deny even the remotest islands their remoteness.”
The result, as Kathryn Schulz reports
, is that we are living through The Sixth Extinction
Tractor-trailers full of bottled water
are headed to affected counties in West Virginia after public authorities told residents to "refrain from using the water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, bathing and washing”
following the Elk River's contamination with 4-methylcyclohexane methanol. [more inside]
24 million gallons of jet fuel have been leaking from Albuquerque’s Kirtland Air Force Base for 60 some years. And nobody seems very concerned about it.
"Tiny plastic beads used in hundreds of toiletries like facial scrubs and toothpastes are slipping through water treatment plants and turning up by the tens of millions in the Great Lakes. " (NYT)
This new environmental threat is particularly worrisome because the beads float and look like fish's normal food. The toxins in the beads tend to degrade slowly, so they bioaccumulate and are passed up the food chain. The majority of the beads appear to enter the lakes when storms cause wastewater treatment plants to overflow
Welcome to Fort McMoney,
an interactive documentary game. [more inside]
The NFL's Modern Man: How Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin — a bike-riding, socially conscious, Animal Collective–loving hipster — is redefining what it means to be a football player.
Alan Weisman's new book argues that we should not only slow population growth, we should decrease the world's population to 2 billion.
In the New Yorker
, Elizabeth Kolbert considers
his argument for the 2 billion person world in the context of a long history of Malthusian and neo-Malthusian arguments over population growth and resource limits. “Before artificial nitrogen fertilizer became widely available, the world’s population was around 2 billion. When we no longer have it—or if we ever decide to stop using it—that may be a number to which our own naturally gravitates.”
For more context, see Paul Sabin's new book The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble Over Earth’s Future
. [more inside]
How The Economic Machine Works by Ray Dalio
 actually makes a case against austerity
 and for redistribution, but also for money printing
(and, arguably, for bailouts), while stressing the need to keep making productivity-improving public
investments. However, it could be equally entitled: How The Industrial Age Political-Economy Doesn't Work Anymore
, viz. Surviving Progress (2011)
... [more inside]
For several months
, bitumen from the Athabasca oil sands has been leaching out of the ground
near Cold Lake, Alberta
, so far amounting to roughly half of the oil leaked in the Enbridge-caused disaster
in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Nearby sites of high-pressure steam injection used to extract the bitumen (and which is already associated with violent seismic activity in natural gas fracking operations) are suspected to have caused fractures that push bitumen "sideways" and out to the surface. As Vice
reporter Sarah Berman notes, "The oozing leaks will continue until the underground pressure subsides. How long that will take is anybody’s guess.
" While tons of contaminated vegetation and dead animals have been removed from the sites, access to the region and to government data by First Nation representatives has been repeatedly denied
With the Great Pacific Garbage Patch increasing in size
, coming up with a viable solution seems like a pretty important thing to do. Enter Boyan Slat
, the 19-year-old with a plan that could clean up
7,250,000,000kg of plastic from the world's oceans - within about five years. [more inside]
It seems eco-friendly cargo ships are slowly on the rise
Today i learned there is a full length documentary on Vimeo about one of these sailing vessels, the Tres Hombres
; a bittersweet account of a voyage to transport supplies and aid to Haiti after the devastating earthquake: How Captain Longhair saved the World
(HD, 42 min.).
"The information and technology ecosystem now represents around 10 per cent of the world's electricity generation, and it's hungry for filthy coal.
In a report likely to inspire depression among environmentalists, and fluffy statements from tech companies, analyst firm Digital Power Group has synthesized numerous reports and crunched data on the real electricity consumption of our digital world."
- IT now 10 percent of world's electricity consumption, report finds
In 1971, the newly-created US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hired a bunch of freelance photographers to collectively document environmental issues around the country. They were given free rein to shoot whatever they wanted, and the project, named Documerica
, lasted through 1977. After 40 years, the EPA is now encouraging photographers to take current versions of the original Documerica photos and are showcasing them on flickr at State of the Environment
. There are location challenges
, and a set has been created with some of the submissions, making side-by-side comparisons
. [more inside]
Sweden is putting only four percent of its household waste in landfills (the US puts about half of its garbage in landfills) and much of the remainder is used for heating through an innovative waste-to-energy program
The problem? They are now running out of garbage
, and have to import from neighbouring countries.
A hundred years ago streams got in the way of urban planning so people covered them up
. Today towns and cities are looking to bring these streams back into light
thus reducing flood risks, improving water quality, and revitalising neighbourhoods.
on September 22 last year, Professor Robert Fuller
of the University of North Georgia spent four months paddling down the Chattahoochee River system, from the Chattahoochee's headwaters in northern Georgia down through the Apalachicola into the Gulf of Mexico, studying water quality
along the way. Then he paddled 200 miles through the Gulf, turned at the mouth of the Mobile River, and paddled another 750 miles upstream
on the Mobile, Alabama, Coosa, and Etowah Rivers all the way back
to northern Georgia—a total of just over 1,500 miles of solo paddling in his Kruger Sea Wind
. Along the way, he kept a blog
, "ate a lot of Beanie Weenies"
, and faced difficulties including cold, hunger, injuries, and river obstructions. Incidentally, he did all this while living with leukemia
. [more inside]
The iconic monarch of the North Woods is dying at an alarming rate.
Is it climate change, a brain-piercing parasite, or is something else to blame?
From Slate's 'Behold' photo blog: This Is What Fracking Really Looks Like
. See more of photographer Nina Berman's documentation of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region at her website collection called fractured: the shale play
If anything can turn Westerners on to entomophagy for sustainable protein (or just the perfect beer snack), surely it's an attractive, well-designed kitchen appliance. Introducing LEPSIS
, a modular terrarium for growing grasshoppers
as a food source in an urban home. Nominated for the 2013 INDEX: Award
A month after its release, Naughty Dog
's sweeping interactive epic The Last of Us
is being hailed as one of the best games of all time
, with perfect scores even from notoriously demanding critics
Inspired by an eerily beautiful segment from the BBC's Planet Earth
, the game portrays an America twenty years after a pandemic of the zombiefying Cordyceps
), leaving behind lush wastelands
of elegant decay
teeming with monsters
and beset by vicious bandits, a brutal military, and the revolutionary Fireflies.
Into this bleak vision of desperate violence
journey Joel, a gruffly stoic Texan with a painful past, and his ward Ellie, a precocious teenager who may hold the key to mankind's future.
Boasting tense, immersive gameplay
, compelling performances
from a diverse cast, a movingly minimalist score
from Oscar-winning Gustavo Santaolalla
, and an array of influences from Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men
to Cormac McCarthy's The Road
, it's already being slotted alongside BioShock Infinite
and Half-Life 2
as one of modern gaming's crowning achievements
. And while it's hard to disentangle plot from action, you don't have to buy a PS3 to experience it -- YouTube offers many filmic edits of the game, including this three-hour version of all relevant passages
And don't miss the 84-minute documentary
exploring every facet of its production. [more inside]
The Restart Project
encourages community engagement in repairing broken electronic equipment. This one year old charity enables "restart parties
" which bring together consumers with broken electronic equipment and volunteer repairers, in an attempt to address our modern culture of "passive, flabby consumers of technology". When recycling is the second best option
In the deep sea, low oxygen levels, scarce sunlight, and freezing water limit the rate at which items decompose: Something that might survive a few years on land could exist for decades underwater.
- ROVs photograph trash on the ocean floor.
"...For China’s animal welfare advocates, the victory signaled the growing clout of a movement that is frequently derided as bourgeois, frivolous or worse. Its most vociferous opponents paint animal advocates as foreign-financed traitors who would do away with such hallowed Chinese traditions as dog meat hot pot, ivory carving and dried deer penis, consumed to increase virility."
- Folk Remedy Extracted From Captive Bears Stirs Furor in China
(SL NYTIMES) [more inside]
Whey Too Much: Greek Yogurt’s Dark Side For every three or four ounces of milk, Chobani and other companies can produce only one ounce of creamy Greek yogurt. The rest becomes acid whey. It’s a thin, runny waste product that can’t simply be dumped. Not only would that be illegal, but whey decomposition is toxic to the natural environment, robbing oxygen from streams and rivers.... And as the nation’s hunger grows for strained yogurt, which produces more byproduct than traditional varieties, the issue of its acid runoff becomes more pressing. Greek yogurt companies, food scientists, and state government officials are scrambling not just to figure out uses for whey, but how to make a profit off of it.
Scientific American reports:
"An isolated population of Arctic foxes that dines only on marine animals seems to be slowly succumbing to mercury poisoning." Though a definitive causal link is difficult to establish, an isolated population of arctic foxes on Russia's Mednyi Island is believed to be collapsing due to mercury contamination as a result of its seafood-heavy diet. Where
does all that mercury in the environment
come from anyway? Why, it's another biproduct of burning fossil fuels, of course, and predictably, rates of mercury pollution are only expected to increase
. In some places in the US, even rainwater
is showing high levels of contamination. [more inside]
Getting your groceries delivered might be greener than driving to the store.
In a University of Washington study, delivery vs. driving reduced CO2 emissions by half. Where's Webvan when you need it?
Scripps Institute of Oceanography projects that next month its monitoring station will for the first time measure CO2 at 400 parts per million.
Atmospheric CO2 has risen from 280 parts per million before the Industrial Revolution. 400 ppm is an arbitrary milestone that we'll blow right past on our way to 450 ppm within a few decades. This is an unprecedentedly fast rate of increase and it's getting faster. Not all measuring stations are exactly the same: A NOAA station in the Arctic measured CO2 at 400 ppm last year. [more inside]
While a bit parochial, this post reveals some things worth pondering if you are considering relocating to Texas...
The Texas Legislative Study Group released its 2013 “Texas on the Brink” report at the end of last week. The report is an annual study to determine Texas’ rankings among the 50 states and the District of Columbia on health care, education, and the environment. How’s Texas doing? Not so great: The state ranks 50th in high school graduation rate, first in amount of carbon emissions, first in hazardous waste produced, last in voter turnout, first in percentage of people without health insurance, and second in percentage of uninsured kids...
- via The Texas Observer