This is Professor Wangari Maathai. The first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The first Kenyan woman to earn a doctoral degree. An icon of Kenya’s democratic movement who repeatedly put not just her mind but also her body on the line in order to secure a better future for Kenyans and their natural environment. But Maathai’s standing in Kenya is definitely ambiguous. She is beloved by feminists and environmentalists, and tolerated by everyone else... Women are expected to look backwards on guidance on what it means to be “good” – where “good” is primarily defined by men – but not too good because that makes women less interesting to men. This was not Wangari Maathai.
Adam Purple passed away this last Monday. He suffered a heart attack while riding his bike across the Williamsburg Bridge. Adam Purple and the Garden of Eden (Vimeo).
California Drought Tests History of Endless Growth [New York Times]
A punishing drought is forcing a reconsideration of whether the aspiration of untrammeled growth that has for so long been the state’s engine has run against the limits of nature.California Water Use [New York Times] Are you affected? [New York Times] The Drought, explained. [New York Times Video] [more inside]
A Brewing Problem:
“I don't have one. They're kind of expensive to use,” John Sylvan told me frankly, of Keurig K-Cups, the single-serve brewing pods that have fundamentally changed the coffee experience in recent years. “Plus it’s not like drip coffee is tough to make.” Which would seem like a pretty banal sentiment, were Sylvan not the inventor of the K-Cup.
Religion in China: Cracks in the atheist edifice - "Yang Fenggang of Purdue University, in Indiana, says the Christian church in China has grown by an average of 10% a year since 1980. He reckons that on current trends there will be 250m Christians by around 2030, making China's Christian population the largest in the world. Mr Yang says this speed of growth is similar to that seen in fourth-century Rome just before the conversion of Constantine, which paved the way for Christianity to become the religion of his empire." [more inside]
Part I: Bee Deaths Mystery Solved? Neonicotinoids (Neonics) May Actually Help Bee Health.
Reports that honey bees are dying in unusually high numbers has concerned many scientists, farmers and beekeepers, and gripped the public. There have been thousands of stories ricocheting across the web, citing one study or another as the definitive explanation for a mystery that most mainstream experts say is complex and not easily reducible to the kind of simplistic narrative that appeals to advocacy groups. We explore the claims by Harvard School of Public Health researcher Chensheng Lu, heralded by anti-pesticide and anti-GMO advocacy groups, for his research that purportedly proves that the class of chemicals known as neonicotinoids are killing bees and endangering humans.Part II: Bee Deaths And CCD - Flawed Chensheng Lu Harvard Studies Endanger Bees.
Here we examine the specific claim that neonics are responsible for Colony Collapse Disorder—the centerpiece of Lu’s assertions and again see how influential media manipulate quotes and selectively present information to ideologically influence trusting readers.[more inside]
Some of the world’s most powerful conservationists are giving up on wilderness. They are making a big mistake [more inside]
The Foehr Reef is part of the worldwide Crochet Coral Reef Project. It was made by over 700 women and combines more than 4000 individual pieces of marine wonder. A short video shows its beauty [alternating English and German audio]. PDFs with pictures. "The Crochet Coral Reef is a woolly celebration of the intersection of higher geometry and feminine handicraft, and a testimony to the disappearing wonders of the marine world." It originated out of a desire to increase awareness of environmental threats to the world's reefs and is a conjunction of art, environmentalism, and geometry. [more inside]
"Novels are no use at all in days like these, for they deal with people and their relationships, with fathers and mothers and daughters or sons and lovers, etc., with souls, usually unhappy ones, and with society etc., as if the place for all these things were assured, the earth for all time earth, the sea level fixed for all time." [more inside]
On March 23, the floodgates of the Morelos Dam, near Yuma, Arizona opened, unleashing a three-day "pulse" into the dry Colorado River delta. The waters recently reached the Sea of Cortez, and a group of scientists and journalists were there to raft it. [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 2014 Goldman Environmental Prize winners were announced today. Known as the "Green Nobel", the Goldman Prize this year highlights grassroots champions working against industrial pollution, deforestation, dam-building, and legal land use. The awards ceremony will be streamed live on YouTube at 5:30 p.m. PDT. [more inside]
Ducks is a five-part comic by Kate Beaton based on her time working at a mining site in Fort McMurray in 2008. It's 'about environmental destruction in an environment that includes humans,' and it's sad and disturbing and shrewd all at once.
Accidental Rewilding - In places once thick with farms and cities, human dispossession and war has cleared the ground for nature to return
The forest had entered a cycle Tomaž had not seen before, in which many of the giants had perished. Some had died where they stood, and remained upright, reamed with beetle and woodpecker holes, sprouting hoof fungus and razor strop. They looked as if a whisper of wind could blow them down. Others now stretched across the rocks and craters, sometimes blocking our path, sometimes suspended above our heads. Among the trunks lying on the ground, some were so thick that I could scarcely see over them. Where they had fallen, thickets of saplings crowded into the light. Seeing the profusion of fungus and insect life the dead wood harboured, I was reminded of the old ecologists’ aphorism: there is more life in dead trees than there is in living trees. The tidy-minded forestry so many nations practise deprives many species of their habitats.by George Monbiot [more inside]
"Consider some iconic acre of Brooklyn vacant lot. You could grow food on it—or you could throw up a 30-story apartment complex housing 600 people. That’s 600 people who won’t be settling in low-density exurbs where they would be smeared across 60 acres of subdivision; in turn, those 60 acres of vacant exurb could remain farmland or forest. Using communal laundromats and lacking basements to put junk in, those new Brooklynites would lead lives of anti-consumerism. And because they would use mass transit instead of driving everywhere, their carbon footprints would be roughly a third as large as the average American’s. That fundamental land-use equation is the key to understanding how cities promote global sustainability. By concentrating high-density housing, business and lifestyles inside its borders, New York lifts enormous burdens from the ecosystem outside its borders, but that potential is squandered when we consign pristine brownfields to low-density crop-growing. We may root for the community gardeners in their eternal battle with real-estate developers, but it’s the developers who are, despite themselves, the better environmentalists." -- The case against locavorism and or urban farming.
One Nation Under Elvis
My own conversion to country music came all of a sudden in 1990, around another campfire, also in Nevada. The great Western Shoshone anti-nuclear and land-rights activist Bill Rosse, a decorated World War II vet and former farm manager, unpacked his guitar and sang Hank Williams and traditional songs for hours. I was enchanted as much by the irreverent rancor of some of the songs as by the pure blue yearning of others. I’d had no idea such coolness, wit, and poetry was lurking in this stuff I was taught to scorn before I’d met it.[more inside]
Today is Earth Day! Google has a special Earth Day Doodle up. 350.org is encouraging people to speak out against the Keystone XL Pipeline. President Barack Obama has posted a proclamation, and people from all around the Earth are recognizing Earth Day in many different ways! What are you doing to celebrate?
A Golden Rice Opportunity is an article about how genetically modified 'golden rice' may save millions of children, at least according to Skeptical Environmentalist author Dr. Bjorn Lomborg.
DNA analysis has confirmed the death, by poaching, of the last Javan rhino in Vietnam. This marks the official extinction of the Vietnamese subspecies of Javan rhinoceros. The entire species is now represented by just 35 individuals from the Indonesian subspecies, all of whom reside in Ujung Kulon National Park in Indonesia.
An environmental group's hoax e-mail dropped the more than $300 million from share price of Australian mining company Whitehaven Coal. The Australian Greens party has supported the economically destructive attack, drawing ire from the conservative Coalition party.
Environmental and Native American activists in Flagstaff, AZ face federal charges for allegedly "interfering with a forest officer" after a protest action in which they "quarantined" the Coconino National Forest Service lobby to protest a decision permitting the expansion of the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort onto the San Fransisco Peaks – a site regarded as sacred by the Navajo, Hopi, and Havasupai people. The proposed expansion entails the use of treated sewage effluent, aka reclaimed wastewater for snowmaking operations. These events occurred on the same day that the USDA and Forest Service issued a final report (pdf) which outlines recommendations for working more closely with Native representatives surrounding sacred sites issues.
"The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth." ~ Rachel Carson
Rachel Carson's Silent Spring: "Widely considered the most important environmental book of the 20th century, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring has been reissued after 50 years. Margaret Atwood considers its impact and legacy."
Here's a 4-minute TEDx talk that demonstrates the correct method for drying your hands with a single paper towel.
Confessions Of A Recovering Environmentalist. We are environmentalists now in order to promote something called “sustainability.” What does this curious, plastic word mean? It does not mean defending the nonhuman world from the ever-expanding empire of Homo sapiens sapiens, though some of its adherents like to pretend it does, even to themselves. It means sustaining human civilization at the comfort level that the world’s rich people—us—feel is their right, without destroying the “natural capital” or the “resource base” that is needed to do so. Paul Kingsnorth (most recently of the Dark Mountain Project) in Orion Magazine on environmentalism, sustainability, and hope. [more inside]
In 1984, The Voyage of the Mimi set sail on PBS, exploring the ocean off the coast of Massachusetts to study humpback whales. The educational series was made up of thirteen episodes intended to teach middle schoolers about science and math. The first fifteen minutes of each episode were a fictional adventure starring a young Ben Affleck. The second 15 minutes were an "expedition documentary" that would explore the scientific concepts behind the show's plot points. A sequel with the same format, The Second Voyage of the Mimi aired in 1988, and featured the crew of the Mimi exploring Mayan ruins in Mexico. [more inside]
Pennsylvania has adopted what may be the most anti-democratic, anti-environmental law in the country, giving gas companies the right to drill anywhere, overturn local zoning laws, seize private property and muzzle physicians from disclosing specific health impacts from drilling fluids on patients. This American Life on fracking in Pennsylvania. Fracking: Anatomy of a Free Market Failure. Previously in Pennsylvania. [more inside]
END:CIV [full 75 minute movie] "If your homeland was invaded by aliens who cut down the forests, poisoned the water and air, and contaminated the food supply, would you resist?" [more inside]
"There's No Tomorrow" is a half-hour animated documentary that deals with resource depletion, energy, and growth. [more inside]
"Primitivism is the pursuit of ways of life running counter to the development of technology, its alienating antecedents, and the ensemble of changes wrought by both. This site is an exploration into primitivist theory, as well as various works that contribute to an understanding of the tendency." [more inside]
BBC's "Frozen Planet" series will not be airing an episode about climate change in the United States.
Lauded as a civil disobedience symbol agitating for urgent reaction to climate change, Timothy DeChristopher was sentenced Tuesday to two years in federal prison. [more inside]
John Baez (mathematical physicist and master popularizer, former operator of This Week's Finds in Mathematical Physics, current promoter of the idea that physicists should start pitching in on saving the world) interviews Eliezer Yudkowsky (singularitarian, author of "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality," promoter of the idea that human life faces a near-term existential threat from unfriendly artificial intelligence, and that people can live better lives by evading their cognitive biases) about the future, academia, rationality, altruism, expected utility, self-improvement by humans and machines, and the relative merit of battling climate change and developing friendly AIs that will forstall our otherwise inevitable doom. Part I. Part II. Part III. [more inside]
The Easy-Bake Oven has inspired some children and mutilated others en route to being immortalized in The National Toy Hall of Fame. But with 100-watt incandescent light bulbs effectively prohibited from manufacture starting in 2012, the suprisingly versatile cooking instrument is being retired in favor of an "Ultimate" model powered by a non-bulb heating element.
BR Myers thinks foodies are obsessed with food at the expense of morals. Rancher and writer thinks it's a shallow and warped attack on people trying to make the food system better.. [more inside]
Japan has suspended its whale hunt after pressure from world governments and harassment by eco-vigilante group Sea Shepherd. Previously.
Previously on metafilter, it was suggested that opinions on Genghis Khan might sway with political sentiment. Well apparently he's now being hailed by some as history's greenest conqueror. Discuss.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Wednesday afternoon that the Obama administration will not allow offshore oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico or off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as part of the next five-year drilling plan, reversing two key policy changes President Obama announced in late March. Drilling will continue in other parts of the Gulf of Mexico under new safeguards. Previously.
Previously on metafilter, a flock of ducks died in a Syncrude tailings pond in Northern Alberta. Last week Syncrude was fined 3 million dollars. Now, another flocks of ducks has landed in another Syncrude tailing pond. Meanwhile, the Council of Canadians is warning that Alberta may be on the road to privatising water rights, something that ducks have previously been using for free. [/tongue in cheek.]
A handful of US scientists have made names for themselves by casting doubt on global warming research. In the past, the same people have also downplayed the dangers of passive smoking, acid rain and the ozone hole. In all cases, the tactics are the same: Spread doubt and claim it's too soon to take action.
Sorry. Today we put up a mini-movie about 10:10 and climate change called 'No Pressure’. Many people found the resulting film extremely funny, but unfortunately some didn't and we sincerely apologise to anybody we have offended. As a result of these concerns we've taken it off our website. We won't be making any attempt to censor or remove other versions currently in circulation on the internet.
The Majestic Plastic Bag A 'wildlife documentary' about the plastic bag, narrated by Jeremy Irons. Or if Werner Herzog is more your kind of narrator, his take has previously been featured on the blue.
Kirtland's Warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii) is a small songbird that lives almost exclusively in the lower peninsula of Michigan. During the 1970's they were on the verge of extinction, partially due to the fact that they prefer young jack pine trees as a nesting place, and improved fire safety efforts had led to a lack of new growth in the forests. To address the lack of young jack pines, the Forest Service started a controlled burn on May 5, 1980. The fire quickly got out of control, and the resulting wildfire lead to the death of local firefighter Jim Swiderski, and the destruction of 64 homes. A recent Radiolab segment has again raised the question: how much is a species worth? [more inside]
Forget Shorter Showers. Why personal change does not equal political change.
Francie Rehwald said she wanted a curved, feminine-shaped house for her Malibu lot overlooking the Pacific Ocean, so architect David Hertz designed her a home built from a scrapped 747.
Bjørn Lomborg is well known as the author of Cool It and The Skeptical Environmentalist, books which challenge the scientific consensus on climate change and global warming. Howard Friel, previously known for his book The Record of the Paper, a critical look at the New York Times' coverage of American foreign policy, has a book coming out in March which asserts that Lomborg's Cool It lies constantly, citing sources which contradict or are irrelevant to his points. Lomborg, in response, has posted a rebuttal to Friel (PDF).
SLJaredDiamondOp-Ed: As part of my board work, I have been asked to assess the environments in oil fields, and have had frank discussions with oil company employees at all levels. I’ve also worked with executives of mining, retail, logging and financial services companies. I’ve discovered that while some businesses are indeed as destructive as many suspect, others are among the world’s strongest positive forces for environmental sustainability. [more inside]
An oldie, but apropros for Earth Day. Join Penn & Teller in banning the nefarious Dihydrogen Monoxide!