I went far out of my element, onto a sheet of ice in the wilderness, to report this story.
A high mountain glacier, in its frigid, deadly enormity, doesn’t feel much like a landscape meant for humans. In the European Alps, medieval myths held that glaciers carried curses and incarcerated the frozen souls of the damned. And yet, on a grand scale, where glaciers and humans coexist, our lives are entwined in ways we rarely realize. [Read more.]
An audio version of my piece on climate-change adaptation in Acadia now appears in podcast form, on the Overstory. You can listen here or download on iTunes (Episode 5).
My contribution to a cover story package for the special issue, “Life on Another Planet” (with writers Kim Stanley Robinson, Kenneth Brower, and Dashka Slater).
On a decommissioned naval base in Maine owned by Acadia National Park, about a thousand tree seedlings stand inside a series of wire enclosures, corralled like farm animals.
Nicholas Fisichelli, forest ecology director at the Schoodic Institute, a nonprofit that functions as a research center for Acadia, walks through the plots of baby trees. They are laid out neatly in a grassy clearing, beside a former infirmary that has been converted into a science building. Lanky and bespectacled, he stoops to peer at the rows of new leaves and delicate stems. One group of plots is a test to see whether seed sown on the ground will sprout in this environment. Other sections are full of seedlings from nursery stock. Collectively, the plots are part of a radical experiment: a wide-ranging search for trees that will be able to survive in this national park decades from now—when things get hotter, drier, and much more uncertain. [Read more.]
On the anniversary of Dr. James Hansen’s famous 1988 Congressional testimony about climate change, I ask, how did we lose the American public’s confidence on this subject? And do the generations of people who have grown up since then think differently about global warming? I spoke to the nation’s leading public opinion researchers in search of an answer. [Read more.]
For thousands of years, the camas lily provided to parts of the West what the potato gave to 17th-century Ireland: carbohydrates for the masses. Could this nutritious purple plant make a comeback?
I reviewed Kyle Harper’s book The Fate of Rome — on the intriguing and compelling case that Rome fell in large part because of climate change and major pandemics.
… If Americans want to compare our country’s faults to those of Rome, they might more closely scrutinize our biological and environmental vulnerabilities than our institutions alone. [Read more.]
This story took me to rural Minnesota, where two organizations — the Jefferson Center and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy — are leading conversations about the politically charged subject of climate change in conservative, rural communities.
For 47 years, Harvey Krage lived in a white farmhouse with red shutters on the side of a bluff about 11 miles from the Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota. He and his family kept ducks in a pair of ponds and drank water from the springhouse in their backyard. For three decades, Krage commuted from the farm through a woodland of red cedar and black maple, past corn and bean fields, to the small city of Winona, where he retreaded massive, heavy construction tires for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. Then for another decade, he drove the company’s semitrailers, passing the long hours with talk radio, especially the diatribes of right-wing commentator Rush Limbaugh. That’s how he first heard about climate change, “about how crazy these scientists were.” [Read more.]
I reviewed Jeff Goodell’s new book about sea level rise, The Water Will Come, for Undark.
There are no silver bullets in this book, no obvious happy endings. But its message isn’t hopeless — rather a warning against folly. Miami was built on a dream, but we are not living in one. It’s pointless to pretend that we can rely on the brash optimism and hubris of the past to insulate us from the floods of the future. The water is rising, and things will get ugly, filthy, and dangerous if we ignore what’s coming. [Read more.]
In this month’s cover story for Seattle Met Magazine, my coauthor, Valerie Schloredt, and I tour key moments in our city’s history of protest and civic engagement over the past century.
Seattle Met Magazine
(Here’s from 1968.)
Neither North Cascades National Park—signed into existence by Lyndon Johnson on October 2, 1968—nor the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, nor many of the other outdoor playgrounds Seattleites enjoy today would exist without the work of the feisty hikers and mountaineers who organized, in the 1950s and 1960s, to stop plans to log and mine much of the state’s vast wilderness areas.
In 1957, they founded the North Cascades Conservation Council. Its early members included people like Polly Dyer, a mild-tempered but indomitable woman who testified on behalf of the 1964 Wilderness Act, and the irascible Harvey Manning, who penned columns for their newsletter under the pseudonym the Irate Birdwatcher. “They were then the fightingest and scrappiest outfit around,” remembered conservationist Brock Evans in a history of the council. [Read more.]
A story about the decades-long quest to develop “perennial wheat.” Now one perennial grain, called Kernza, may be about to hit the big time.
On an August morning in Minneapolis, I sat at a wooden table inside the Birchwood Cafe, a bright, cheerful restaurant a few blocks from the Mississippi River waterfront, tasting an éclair as attentively as I could. The flavor I wanted to detect was partly obscured by more conspicuous ingredients: a high-pitched, jammy blueberry glaze painted across the top of the pastry, and the sweet song of a yellow corn custard. But beneath that, there was a subtle and earthy background note: the grain. [Read more.]