Yellowstone, Rewilding & 06

The American west has told the rewilding story from multiple perspectives, and this book to the right makes a special place for the she-wolf in that story, according to this review in Inquisitive Biologist:

The wolves reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 are some of the best-studied mammals on the planet. Biological technician and park ranger Rick McIntyre has spent over two decades scrutinizing their daily lives, venturing into the park every single day. Where his previous books focused on three notable alpha* males, it is ultimately the females that call the shots and make the decisions with lasting consequences. This book is a long overdue recognition of the female wolf and continues this multigenerational saga. Continue reading

Bicycles & E-Bike Danger

ILLUSTRATION BY SARAH ANGÈLE WILSON

Bicycle love has been a minor but notable theme in our pages over the years. In more recent years their relationship to electricity has become the focus of more stories, like this one:

The High Cost of Cheap E-Bikes

Electric bicycles are catching on—and their lithium-ion batteries are catching fire. Why is so little being done about it?

Fires and overheating accidents attributed to lithium-ion batteries killed 19 people in the United States in 2022, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In New York City alone, six people died in these uniquely fast-burning infernos. Experts say poorly made batteries, like those often found on cheaper e-bike models, are the primary culprit. So why is it still so easy to purchase them? Continue reading

Seed Bank Futures

Hassan Machlab, a country manager with ICARDA in Lebanon, stands in the middle of a field with newly planted grains at the ICARDA research station, Dec. 21, 2022. Dalia Khamissy for NPR

Protecting plant species’ futures with seed banks grows greater in importance as time passes, because challenges to the planet multiply. We appreciate updates like this one by Ruth Sherlock and colleagues at National Public Radio (USA):

How ancient seeds from the Fertile Crescent could help save us from climate change

Chickpea grains are tested for various diseases at the ICARDA research station, Dec. 21, 2022. Dalia Khamissy for NPR

TERBOL, Lebanon — Inside a large freezer room at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, tens of thousands of seeds are stored at a constant temperature of minus-4 degrees Fahrenheit. After being threshed and cleaned, the seeds are placed inside small, sealed foil packets and stored on rows of heavy, sliding metal shelves.

Barley grains stored at the ICARDA research station. Dalia Khamissy for NPR

Some of them may hold keys to helping the planet’s food supply adapt to climate change.

The gene bank can hold as many as 120,000 varieties of plants. Many of the seeds come from crops as old as agriculture itself. They’re sown by farmers in the Fertile Crescent region, where cultivation began some 11,000 years ago. Other seeds were deposited by researchers who’ve hiked in the past four decades through forests and mountains in the Middle East, Asia and North Africa, searching for wild relatives of wheat, legumes and other crops that are important to the human diet. Continue reading

The Good Life, Researched, Written & Spoken About

Robert Waldinger, MD has a way with words, and ideas, and life experience, judging by his discussion with Sam Harris. This topic is not typical of most of the content we link to, but for a Tuesday in early 2023 it is as worthwhile as anything we can think to share. Click the image of the book to go to the website where its author introduces it:

Eight decades. Three generations. Thousands of lives.

The Harvard Study of Adult Development is an extraordinary scientific endeavor that began in 1938 and is still going strong (Waldinger is the fourth director, and Schulz its associate director). For over eight decades, the study has tracked the same individuals and their families, asking thousands of questions and taking hundreds of measurements—from brain scans to blood work—with the goal of discovering what really makes for a good life.

Through all the years of studying these lives, strong relationships stand out for their impact on physical health, mental health, and longevity. Waldinger and Schulz boil it down simply:

“Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

New York Waters Are Clean Enough For Fun Again

A pod of dolphins just outside New York harbor. Carsten Brandt/Getty

Our thanks to Oliver Milman, Mother Jones and the Climate Desk collaboration for this, and we hope the frolicking continues:

To New Yorkers’ Delight, Dolphins Return to the Bronx River

“We’ve come a long way.”

Dolphins have been spotted frolicking in New York City’s Bronx River, an encouraging sign of the improving health of a waterway that was for many years befouled as a sewer for industrial waste. Continue reading

The Remarkable Efficiency Of Heat Pumps, Explained

Heat pumps use electricity to compress a refrigerant, raising its temperature. IEA

Heat pumps have only been a passing reference occasionally in these pages, but today they are the focus, thanks to Paul Hockenos in Yale e360:

In Europe’s Clean Energy Transition, Industry Turns to Heat Pumps

With soaring gas prices due to the Ukraine war and the EU’s push to cut emissions, European industries are increasingly switching to high-temperature, high-efficiency heat pumps. Combined with the boom in residential use, the EU is now hoping for a heat pump revolution.

An industrial heat pump at the Mars Confectionery in Veghel, the Netherlands. GEA

The Wienerberger brickworks in Uttendorf, Austria, in the Tyrolean Alps, has always required a steady stream of 90 degree C (194 degree F) heat to dry its construction blocks. This process would have been an expensive proposition for the company after Russia cut gas exports to Europe, as it was for most of Europe’s energy-intensive construction industry. But four years ago, Wienerberger — the largest brick producer in the world — made an investment in the future that is now paying off: it replaced Uttendorf’s gas-fired boiler with an industrial-scale heat pump, which whittles the factory’s energy bill by around 425,00 euros a year. Continue reading

Stories from the Field: Kazaranga National Park, Assam

My childhood friend Sathya thrust his 1D Mark4 camera and 300 mm f4 camera lens in my hand and asked me to step out and spend more time outside my apartment. He was a medical professional. It was July 2012, and his idea was to fill me with quality air and to wrap more sun on my skin. He wanted me to travel more often and photograph birds.  It was 6 months after a week long trip at Kaziranga National Park, which had been my first taste of wildlife. I can still smell the freshness of it all.
Kaziranga is magical.

We stayed at the Wild Grass Lodge amidst the intimidating presence of huge lenses and heavy gear.
The dining hall was filled with Masai Mara and other jungle lores.
I was drawn into my fellow travel mates’ conversations on birds and elephant behaviour.
Animal psychology was a nonexistent subject for me till then. I always marveled at the life of plants & trees. The reasons and roles of their existence and their beauty.
During this trip, I was introduced into the role of fauna into the sustenance of forests and their mutual social struggles; Their mastery of leveraging each others resources, framed by unwritten cooperative laws. Their companionship in fighting extinction. Survival makes strange bedfellows among flora and fauna – from the megafauna to the smallest ant and flying insect.

Continue reading

Good Chocolate

‘The only way to ensure that money is going into a farmer’s pocket is to buy directly from farmers.’

‘The only way to ensure that money is going into a farmer’s pocket is to buy directly from farmers.’ Illustration: Rita Liu/The Guardian

We have been avid readers on the topic of chocolate for almost as long as we have been sharing articles on this platform:

The sweet spot: is ethical and affordable chocolate possible?

It is possible to pay farmers a premium while selling single-origin chocolate at a cheaper price – but it means companies have to transform the way it’s made

Is it possible to make an ethical chocolate bar that’s also affordable? Tim McCollum, the founder of the bean-to-bar chocolate brand Beyond Good, says the answer is yes – but you have to transform the way it’s made. Continue reading

Aeon & The Rise Of Maize In Asia

On the outskirts of Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province in southwestern China, 6 November 2006. Photo by stringer/Reuters

Aeon was a regular source of excellent ideas and information during our first few years, and we are happy to see it again:

Maize is arguably the single most important crop in the world and is rivalled only by soybeans in terms of versatility. That said, it is, along with sugar cane and palm oil, among the most controversial crops, proving particularly so to critics of industrial agriculture. Although maize is usually associated with the Western world, it has played a prominent role in Asia for a long time, and, in recent decades, its importance in Asia has soared. For better or worse, or more likely for better and worse, its role in Asia seems to be following the Western script. Continue reading

More Metrics For Animal Intelligence

(Credit: Viesinsh/Shutterstock)

We appreciate Conor Feehly’s article in Discover, expanding our understanding of and ability to measure the intelligence of our co-inhabitants on this planet:

How Intelligence Is Measured In The Animal Kingdom

As understandings of human intelligence evolve, so, too, do understandings of animal intelligence.

Human beings — with our big brains, technology and mastery of language — like to describe ourselves as the most intelligent species. After all, we’re capable of reaching space, prolonging our lives and understanding the world around us. Over time, however, our understanding of intelligence has gotten a little more complicated. Continue reading