Now, we have a unique opportunity as human beings: we can interpret these warning signs and make long-term plans for the future. We can begin today to prepare a gift for our own future, and for the future of our descendants. At the very least, we can leave the promise of hope and the courage to try.
It’s a privilege to be distanced from the world’s most pressing environmental issues. Thanks to various socioeconomic and political forces, it’s a privilege that exists only for a few – namely, residents of the developed world’s upper classes.
Of course, many of our fish farms, which often rely on wild-caught “fish meal” themselves, aren’t sustainable either. Like many environmental conundrums, there are no easy answers – yet. Perhaps this latest fishery closure will inspire some.
We need to develop an environmental consciousness that admires sustainability, not consumption, and rewards conservation, not excess. In so doing, we’ll become better caretakers, not just of our sand supply, but also of our planet. Only then can we hope to secure humanity’s survival on Earth.
How, then, can we prevent other species from meeting Lonesome George’s fate? For many of the 11,500 species listed as endangered (or critically endangered) by the IUCN, it may already be too late. Lonesome George, perhaps, would recommend a conservative course: slow and steady, taking each step with caution, steering well clear of that invisible line.
A huge potential reservoir of new medicines is contained in Earth’s biodiversity. So long as we continue to decimate this biodiversity, we will be locked in a losing race against time to catalogue these species and salvage any of their medicinal value before they are lost forever.
At subway stations and bus stops, we’re warned by conductors “mind the gap.” While in those cases, the solution is a short hop from side to side, when it comes to the gap in scientific knowledge, both sides must work to shrink, not simply avoid, it.
Such success stories won’t be echoed everywhere. On a planet with 7 billion humans and counting, wild places are necessarily eroding in the face of human need, despite the activism of conservation interests. For every bird colony fenced by a first world nation, millions of acres of rainforest will be cut down in developing countries. For every bird colony fenced by a first world nation, millions of acres of rainforest will be cut down in developing countries.
What if microfinance could accelerate the demographic transition? Many microfinance institutes focus on making loans to women: properly administered, these loans should enable women to establish their societal value economically. But perhaps most importantly, microfinance provides an avenue for people to transition from the day-to-day worries of feeding themselves and their families into lifestyles that provide at least a little breathing room to plan for the future.
For all its present-day pleasantries, the reality of life on a Hawaiian island also foreshadows humanity’s grim future of resource limitation and expensive essentials. Just like Oʻahu, Planet Earth is an island – with one key exception: there’s no mainland stockpile to bail it out.
The emerging – or rather, submerging – environmental catastrophe is as grand in scale as it is complex in its origins. Since 1930, Louisiana has lost 1880 square miles of its coastal marshes – an area eight times the size of San Francisco. Every hour, Louisiana loses at least one additional football field’s worth of land.
Last month, as gas prices fell, we started buying less efficient cars again: SUV sales soared while hybrid sales sank, and average vehicle gas mileage made its biggest drop since 2011. The efficiency of our vehicles seems to neatly track gas prices, and “savings” at the pump quickly evaporate into larger fuel tanks.
Rather than fearing discussion of human overpopulation, we should embrace it. That’s a lot less scary than rocketing blindly towards 10 billion with no plan for the environmental consequences when we get there.
Placing restrictions on the major consumers of California’s precious fresh water will not cripple the state’s economy. And the gradual implementation proposed by the new legislation (the real teeth of the laws don’t kick in until 2025) buys farmers more time than is probably environmentally feasible to adjust to the new regulations.
VANCOUVER, B.C.: I have been fortunate to live in many places, but none have ever felt like “home” in the way the Pacific Northwest does. It has the gray skies and rainy days that soothe my sun-scorched eyes, perfect vistas of tree-lined shores backed by snow-tipped mountains and long summer days that linger into early-morning…
The hearts of these legislators are in the right place, even if change is a long way off. Certainly, they have the support of many environmental advocacy groups, who recognize the importance of connecting kids with nature to ensure that the conservation ethic stays alive and well in America. But they also need the support of you and me, both intellectually and through our actions. It’s our job to make sure that our kids—when and if we have them—get outside. By the time we’re chasing toddlers around, the research will be even clearer, but the societal shift into the digital vacuum will have progressed even further. So in the meantime, try to get outside yourself to cement that link between nature, brainpower and happiness.
Last week, the climate-conscious received new cause for alarm. Two studies, published separately but simultaneously by independent groups of scientists, reached the same frightening conclusion: The West Antarctic ice sheet is collapsing. And there’s nothing we can do about it. Their separate lines of evidence told the story of the southern continent’s response to global change and its inevitable impacts on the rest of the planet.
In 2010, President Barack Obama announced the shutdown of the government’s manned space shuttle program. The task of putting humans in space has been turned over to the private sector; the truly far-ranging exploration is best left to robots. This makes economic sense – as well as sense safety-wise. Supporting human life in space – particularly for the vast amounts of time required to traverse even our own planetary system – is infinitely more complicated than simply transporting machinery. We’ve turned over our space exploration to probes and rovers that leave the surface of our planet, never to return.
Many hatchlings are not expected to survive to maturity, and in fact most sea turtles are endangered, so ensuring successful nesting is a major conservation goal. Many turtle-nesting beaches are afforded extra protections and monitoring because every population source is vital. Yet in a few years, even ensuring the safety of every single turtle nest might not be enough. That's because climate change is warming the beaches on which the turtles nest and, as a result, potentially changing the sex ratio of the turtles that hatch out of those nests.
If we fail to deal with climate change, managed relocation — physically distributing members of at-risk species to new, potentially suitable habitats — could help at least a few species escape extinction. But both the scientific feasibility of relocation and the ethical implications remain unknown.
The story of Cliven Bundy, a Nevada farmer currently in a standoff with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, reads like some kind of anachronistic, anarchist Wild West showdown to a city slicker like me. Bundy has been ranching cattle for decades on the land surrounding his family’s homestead, 80 miles from Las Vegas. The thing is, he hasn’t been doing it on his own land.
It's an uphill battle in a political environment that, regardless of the (increasingly unequivocal) state of climate science, is viciously polarized. One side is populated by arguments for heading off a climate catastrophe that could jeopardize human civilization. The other side fears surrendering freedoms and liberties more than uncertain and distant threats.
Brain development is a process we still know little about. Yet its complexity and delicacy suggest that it may be susceptible to a variety of derailments. So why, then, do we let tens of thousands of chemicals go untested into the environment, when we know that at least some of them pose serious neurological threats?
At last, solar power seems ready for the big stage. Finally at the same price point as traditional electricity generation, solar is no longer the pet project of wealthy greenies and will increasingly become the economical choice — not just the environmentally conscious one. After decades of security in its then “natural monopoly” as the only source of electricity available to homeowners, electrical utility companies are suddenly facing substantial revenue losses as its customers shift toward self-sufficiency.