Traditional houses in West Sumatra. Ulet Ifansasti for The New York Times
Finding this story by Mike Ives, with Topher White getting up into the trees for a good purpose, brightens the day just a little bit:
Topher White installing a solar-powered listening unit in a rainforest on the Indonesian island of Sumatra in July. Ulet Ifansasti for The New York Times
PAKAN RABAA, Indonesia — This village in West Sumatra, a lush province of volcanoes and hilly rain forests, had a problem with illegal loggers.
They were stealing valuable hardwood with impunity. At first, a group of local people put a fence across the main road leading into the forest, but it was flimsy and proved no match for the interlopers. Continue reading
Thanks to the Guardian for a bit more insight into one of our favorite topics of the last year or two:
Meat no longer has to be murder
A journalist walks into Honest Burgers, a small chain of restaurants in Britain. Mindful of the carbon emissions that come from raising cows, he orders a plant-based burger. It tastes convincingly beefy, at least when encased in a brioche bun and loaded with vegan Gouda and chipotle “mayo”. Continue reading
Don Valley, Australia John Laurie for The New York Times
Eric Asimov, wine critic, is also a pretty good explainer of the practical implications of climate change:
Catena Zapata, Argentina Horacio Paone for The New York Times
Wine, which is among the most sensitive and nuanced of agricultural products, demonstrates how climate change is transforming traditions and practices that may be centuries old.
Around the wine-growing world, smart producers have contemplated and experimented with adaptations, not only to hotter summers, but also to warmer winters, droughts and the sort of unexpected, sometimes violent events that stem from climate change: freak hailstorms, spring frosts, flooding and forest fires, just to name a few.
Farmers have been on the front line, and grape growers especially have been noting profound changes in weather patterns since the 1990s. In the short term, some of these changes have actually benefited certain regions.
Places, like England, that were historically unsuited for producing fine wine have been given the opportunity to join the global wine world, transforming local economies in the process. Continue reading
Shell said last year that divestment had become a material risk to its business.’ Shell’s Brent Bravo oil rig arrives on Teesside for decommissioning, June 2019. Photograph: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
Bill McKibben explains the movement and its best chance of success:
On 15 October, the European Investment Bank meets to decide its policy on fossil fuels. The hand of history is on its shoulder
Millions of people marched against climate crisis over the past two weeks, in some of the largest demonstrations of the millennium. Most people cheered the students who led the rallies – call them the Greta Generation. But now we’ll start to find out if all their earnest protest actually matters.
Eric Schmidt being interviewing on Bloomberg in 2014. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images
We usually introduce a story for context. No introduction needed (or possible) in this case, just thanks to the Guardian for sharing it:
The Lower Granite Dam on the lower Snake River in southeastern Washington. GREG VAUGHN / ALAMY
Jacques Leslie, a veteran writer whose specialty in one of the most-used sources of alternative energy makes him a natural for our platform, somehow has never appeared in our pages before. Dams and the rivers they change are a special case of our interest in conservation, and stories about dam removal are worth the read every time. Here is a clear explanation of one river’s history and future related to dams, and the prospects for dam removal–if you have not read one of these stories yet to understand the historic case for dams and their present illogical realities, this may be the one you want to read:
As renewable energy becomes cheaper than hydropower and the presence of dams worsens the plight of salmon, pressure is mounting in the Pacific Northwest to take down four key dams on the lower Snake River that critics say have outlived their usefulness.
North America’s largest Pacific watershed, the Columbia River Basin, is in the midst of an environmental and energy crisis so severe that the most obvious, yet hotly contested, antidote — removal of four dams on the Columbia’s longest tributary, the Snake River — is gaining traction.
The hydropower dams have been controversial since before their completion, between 1962 and 1975, because of their disastrous impact on salmon and the other 137 species that are part of the salmon food chain. Most of the Columbia Basin’s 250-plus dams have played roles in the salmon’s decline, but the four lower Snake River dams are prime targets for removal because their economic value has diminished and their absence would inordinately benefit salmon. Continue reading
We are happy to see not only that the BBC has given this issue attention, but so has the Design Museum:
Squeeze and settle into your chair on a long-haul economy flight, and you might be offered a drink, in a plastic cup, which you’ll stir with a plastic stick.
You might be given a pack of toiletries – wrapped in plastic, containing a toothbrush – wrapped in plastic.
You might watch a film, using headphones – wrapped in plastic. You might enjoy a meal which you’ll eat with plastic cutlery, also wrapped in plastic. The list goes on and on.
Put together, that contributes to the 5.7 million tonnes of cabin waste from passenger flights each year.
A greener meal tray
A new exhibition at London’s Design Museum aims to rethink the waste we generate when we travel.
Design firm PriestmanGoode has worked up an environmentally-friendly version of the traditional economy meal tray. Continue reading
Our links to stories in Cool Green Science have been among the most abundant of all our sources. This may be due to the publication’s commitment to finding stories that highlight positive change in our approach to understanding, respecting, protecting the environment. Here is another:
Gustavo Lozada wants to change your mind about using drones around wildlife.
Lozada, technology manager for The Nature Conservancy in Colorado, knows that many people think that increasing drone use will only harass and terrify wild animals. He also knows it doesn’t have to be that way, and that drones can be a really important tool in wildlife research and protection. The videos in this blog, he hopes, will show that drones do not have to disturb the peace.
To be clear, Lozada knows that much drone use is detrimental to wildlife. He points to a recent viral video that showed a small cub trying repeatedly to scale slick, snowy slopes to reach its obviously distressed mother. The video was widely shared as showing the cub’s pluck and determination.
But researchers and animal lovers questioned that narrative, as reported in a National Geographic story titled “Viral bear video shows dark side of filming animals with drones.” The article notes that the whole reason the cub found itself in its predicament was likely because it was terrified of the drone filming it. Continue reading
A new study finds that tuna harvests, including of some species considered “vulnerable,” have increased by an astonishing 1,000% in the last 60 years — a rate that some scientists warn is unsustainable. NiCK/Getty Images
Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) for this warning:
If you’re in the mood for a tuna poke bowl or an old-school tuna niçoise salad, here’s a tip: Don’t hit up the Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland. It has been nearly six years since chef Jonathon Sawyer became a “tuna evangelist” after attending a meeting of like-minded chefs at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It was there that he made the decision to forgo tuna — both in his personal life and on the menus at all four of his restaurants.
It wasn’t always easy. Turning down the chance to eat famed chef Eric Ripert’s mouthwatering thin-sliced tuna over a foie gras torchon took some Superman-like strength, but for Sawyer, the mission is an important one. He’s not trying to get people to give up tuna altogether. Rather, he’s trying to raise awareness of the sheer quantities that are coming across our collective plates and serve as a gentle warning that all that fish is coming from a limited resource.
It turns out that his effort is hitting a seafood sustainability bull’s-eye. Continue reading
Thanks to Marisa Endicott at Mother Jones for this:
Respect your elder-berries.
Cloverleaf Farm, a small produce operation in Davis, California, managed to do okay during the extreme drought that lasted from 2012 to 2016. But in the first wet year after the long dry period, the farm lost its entire apricot crop to disease—$40,000 to $50,000 down the drain.
Researchers predict that as climate change worsens, there will be more frequent shifts between extreme dry spells and floods. As Cloverleaf learned the hard way, the phenomenon is already taking a toll on growers in the country’s largest food producing state. During the drought, California’s agricultural and related industries lost $2.7 billion in one year alone. Big cash crops like almonds and grapes are at particular risk in the future, unnerving farmers and vintners already taking hits from erratic and extreme weather. Continue reading
Thanks to Alex Kalman for the story and to Mmuseumm for the photos:
When is skipping school more important than attending? When is a child’s design more effective than a professional’s? When are children more responsible than adults? On September 20th, millions of children, led by the activist Greta Thunberg, took to the streets to protest the world’s inaction on climate change. Here are some of the signs made by children who participated in the New York City march. Inspiring and confrontational, these signs provide a visual counterpoint to the individual voices of our children as they plead with the powers that be to act, and act responsibly.
See the entire collection here.
The floating boom skims up waste ranging in size from a discarded net and a car wheel complete with tire to chips of plastic with diameters as small as 1 millimetre. Photograph: AP
Some encouraging news from the big mess out in the middle of the Pacific:
A 1758 map of Robinson Crusoe Island. Photograph: Antiqua Print Gallery/Alamy Stock Photo
A treasure like this, irresistible as gold may be, must remain a thing of the imagination wherever it is buried.
Bernard Keiser, who has been searching for the hoard for more than two decades, has been granted permission to excavate a 400 sq metre plot near Puerto Inglés on Robinson Crusoe Island, one of the three main volcanic islets that make up the Juan Fernández Archipelago 600 miles off the Chilean coast. Continue reading
Thanks to Luisa Torres for this author interview and book review on a topic we started posting about in 2011, and we unfortunately have continuously found an abundance of stories about, but will continue sharing:
We humans love food to death — literally.
From mammoths to passenger pigeons, we have driven our favorite meals to extinction through overhunting and habitat destruction. And globally, our tendency to overharvest just a narrow range of crops has limited the variety of foods we eat.
“When it comes to fruits and vegetables, we have access to only a fraction of the diversity that existed a century ago,” says Lenore Newman in her forthcoming book, Lost Feast: Culinary Extinction and the Future of Food (out Oct. 8).She is the Canada research chair in food security and environment at the University of the Fraser Valley, in British Columbia.
In her book, Newman explores how human activity has limited our food options and still threatens what we are able to put on our plates. Continue reading
A hairstreak butterflies in a Florida backyard. Photo © Bill Spitzer / TNC Photo Contest 2019
If you are fortunate enough to have a yard of your own, consider this suggestion by Charles Fergus:
By itself, a plain grass lawn is stark and visually unappealing—which is why most homeowners add shrubs, flower beds, and specimen trees. Today, there’s a new movement afoot known as natural landscaping: using native trees, shrubs, and low plants to add textural diversity to a yard while attracting and benefiting wildlife.
Research has shown that seeing wildlife around your home—hearing birds sing, glimpsing brightly colored butterflies and dragonflies, seeing a garter snake slither into a stone wall— makes life more enjoyable.
Many of us have a visceral need to be in touch with wild creatures and to acknowledge that we ourselves are part of nature, even if we live in suburbs and other settings where housing is dense. Continue reading
Harvard scientists and landscapers are testing a new fertilizer that could reduce pollution in water supplies. Unsplash
Thanks to Caitlin McDermott-Murphy for this story about cleaning up our growing systems:
How a biofriendly fertilizer could offer a greener way to grow plants
Every year, a “dead zone” the size of Massachusetts sprawls across the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi River, which travels through the nation’s farm belt, sweeps excess fertilizer and dumps the chemicals into the Gulf, where they feed rampant algae, deplete oxygen, and kill marine life.
Across the U.S., smaller versions of similar dead zones infect lakes, ponds, and rivers. In years with higher rainfall — like 2018 — Massachusetts’ Charles River collects enough pollutants from surrounding city streets, parking lots, and landscaped campuses to cause the water quality to drop. Unchecked algae growth, often the result of excess fertilizer, can damage marine, human, and even pet health: This year, several dogs died after swimming in water choked with toxic blue-green algae. Continue reading
We have featured many stories about marine conservation intersecting with the arts and crafts. Most of those stories are in the Caribbean. Now, Jason Horowitz has surprised us with this from Italy:
TALAMONE, Italy — As the Sirena brought its passengers back to port, Paolo Fanciulli paused from spreading his nets and sustainable fishing gospel to point at an empty spot of sea.
“There, below the lighthouse,” said Mr. Fanciulli, clad in his rib-high yellow waders. “The sculptures are there.”
Paolo Fanciulli’s “House of Fish” project is part environmental activism, part arts initiative, part marketing campaign, part bid for a lasting legacy. Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times
About 25 feet below the rippling surface of this rocky promontory on the southern Tuscan coast, schools of fish visited a museum of four marble blocks, mined from Michelangelo’s preferred quarry and sculpted by acclaimed artists.
Farther north, another 20 Carrara marble sculptures had a different job — as submerged sentries against the illegal bottom trawling that has depleted Talamone’s marine life. Continue reading
Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Thanks to Sarah Jones for The Future Is Ours for the Taking, an updated primer on the big policy bundle proposed to make the USA economy greener, healthier and more prosperous than ever:
In New York City and around the world, millions of people took to the streets on Friday morning. A single demand unified them: Leaders must act, and act now, to stop climate change from getting any worse. “I want you to unite behind science. And then I want you to take real action. Thank you,” Greta Thunberg, the teen climate-change activist from Sweden, told Congress on Wednesday.
And a growing number of climate-change activists have coalesced around an answer to this imperative, a Green New Deal. The proposal, which would transition the U.S. economy to clean energy and create millions of new jobs, has become a rallying cry for organizations like the Sunrise Movement and left-wing Democrats like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Although Ocasio-Cortez helped popularize the Green New Deal, and so has her fellow congressional democratic socialist, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the basic concept is at least 12 years old. Not long after New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman called for a “Green New Deal” in 2007, a group of British academics and activists began drafting a substantive proposal that was published in July 2008.
Photo: Simone Padovani/Awakening/Getty Images
Why do you think it has taken this long for the Green New Deal to catch fire in the public imagination?
For several reasons. Really, it takes an American, doesn’t it? I mean, when the Americans decide something is important, then it suddenly becomes important, and that’s fantastic. But I think what happened back in 2008 was that we were going through this grim financial crisis and London was at the heart of it already thanks to the City of London. We were writing [the British Green New Deal] after the date that I called Detonation Day — on the ninth of August 2007, when interbank lending froze and the system blew up. Continue reading
There are some excellent graphics in this op-ed, but the words are better, and a fitting third entry of the last week on this topic:
We have the tools. Now we are building the political power.
Things take longer to happen than you think they will, but then they happen much faster than you thought they could.
The destructive impacts of the climate crisis are now following the trajectory of that economics maxim as horrors long predicted by scientists are becoming realities.
More destructive Category 5 hurricanes are developing, monster fires ignite and burn on every continent but Antarctica, ice is melting in large amounts there and in Greenland, and accelerating sea-level rise now threatens low-lying cities and island nations.
Tropical diseases are spreading to higher latitudes. Cities face drinking-water shortages. The ocean is becoming warmer and more acidic, destroying coral reefs and endangering fish populations that provide vital protein consumed by about a billion people…
Winnie Au for The New York Times
We occasionally hail architecture, and frequently hail libraries as essential to our shared humanity, and when we get the chance to hail both at the same time, the world seems in good order:
The Hunters Point Community Library is one of the finest public buildings New York has produced this century. But it cost more than $40 million, took a decade and almost died.
The canyon-like lobby entrance of Hunters Point Community Library. Winnie Au for The New York Times
Against a phalanx of mostly dreary new apartment towers, the soon-to-open Hunters Point Community Library by Steven Holl Architects is a diva parading along the East River in Queens, south of the famous Pepsi sign. With its sculptured geometry — a playful advertisement for itself — it’s even a little like the Pepsi sign.
Compact, at 22,000 square feet and 82 feet high, the library is among the finest and most uplifting public buildings New York has produced so far this century.
Winnie Au for The New York Times
It also cost something north of $40 million and took forever to complete. So it raises the question: Why can’t New York build more things like this, faster and cheaper?
The library is full of nooks and corners, illuminated by big windows with sculptured walls covered in bamboo.Credit Winnie Au for The New York Times
Opening Sept. 24, Hunters Point is surely what Queens Library officials and the borough’s former president, Helen M. Marshall, had in mind when the project was proposed more than 15 years ago: a crown jewel among Queens branches, at a singular, symbolic spot facing the United Nations and Louis Kahn’s exalted Four Freedoms Park across the water. Continue reading