Some of the world’s most powerful conservationists are giving up on wilderness. They are making a big mistake [more inside]
"Am I damning with faint praise? Not at all. This is what a successful presidency looks like. No president gets to do everything his supporters expected him to. FDR left behind a reformed nation, but one in which the wealthy retained a lot of power and privilege. On the other side, for all his anti-government rhetoric, Reagan left the core institutions of the New Deal and the Great Society in place. I don't care about the fact that Obama hasn't lived up to the golden dreams of 2008, and I care even less about his approval rating. I do care that he has, when all is said and done, achieved a lot. That is, as Joe Biden didn't quite say, a big deal." Paul Krugman (previously) writes "In Defense of Obama" for Rolling Stone.
Cowspiracy is a crowdfunded documentary now being screened that examines the environmental impact of animal agriculture and seeks to examine why prominent environmental groups have apparently not made it a focus of their efforts. David Robinson Simon, the author of Meatonomics who appears in the film, interviews filmmakers Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn. [more inside]
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.
Slate: "Prius Repellent 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 (previously) reveals haunting images of our endlessly repetitive development through aerial views of American urban sprawl. [more inside]
A herd of hippopotamuses once owned by the late Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar has been taking over the countryside near his former ranch
What was the average American college graduate's college-related debt in 2013? What state has the highest rate of poverty in the United States? Answer these and other depressing questions (or submit your own) at How Wrong You Are.
“We decided that animal health, and human health, would be our priority,” Oosterlaken told me last fall in his barn, surrounded by warm plastic-lined pens where sows snoozed and new piglets squealed. “I don’t need to take antibiotics every day. There’s no reason my pigs should either.”
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.
UN Climate Report: We Must Focus On 'Decarbonization', and It Won't Wreck the Economy - "The basic message is simple: We share a planet. Let's start acting like it." [more inside]
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 the end, the only thing that could create the necessary traction in our minds was the intimate loss of the things we loved. Zadie Smith on climate change at a personal level.
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)
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.
What Is Missing? is artist and architect Maya Lin's (previously) last memorial, this one to vanishing species and habitats. [Via] [more inside]
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 and private 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.
You Just Threw Out a Perfectly Good Gallon of Milk Because You Think the "Sell By" Date Means Something. Food waste is a huge problem. Globally, one-third of all food produced goes uneaten. In the US, that's up to 40% (pdf report). What can we do to prevent labeling confusion? And the most important question... should you eat it or is it expired?
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.).
In 2012 alone, keas were responsible for $425 million in damages and 5 deaths. And while it’s true those statistics aren’t based on real data and that I just made them up, they are nonetheless startling.
"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.
Starting 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 fungus (previously), 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?