An entomologist races to find them before they disappear.
The Devils River, in southwestern Texas, runs, mirage-like, along the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert, through some of the most barren countryside in the United States. Access to the river is limited; unless you’re in a kayak, the only way to travel upstream is along a skein of rutted dirt roads. It was on one of these roads that, a few years ago, David Wagner noticed a shrub that seemed to him peculiarly filled with promise. Continue reading →
For hundreds of years the Vlach herders in Greece and the Balkans have moved livestock to high mountain pastures for the summer months. But their numbers are dwindling as their arduous existence is threatened by soaring costs and a lack of state support
Kostas and Fotini walk with the family’s mare in front of the prehistoric cave of Theopetra village
Every spring in the Thessalian plains of central Greece, in the shadow of the mountains, an ancient and sacred migration of humans and goats takes place. Continue reading →
After the opening years helped us strengthen our resolve, 2022 was the year we expanded Authentica beyond the first two locations. I will feature images of the new shop, in Manuel Antonio, in a later post. For now, just a look at the signage art in front of the new shop.
A Rivian R1T electric pickup truck at the company’s factory in Normal, Illinois. JAMIE KELTER DAVIS / BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES
I had no reason to bet against Tesla until now, but I did wonder whether it was good for anyone (other than its shareholders) for that one company to dominate its market over the longer term. Now, happily, it looks like the market will do what we need it to do, which is get robust:
Spurred by federal mandates and incentives, U.S. manufacturers are pushing forward with developing new battery technologies for electric vehicles. The holy grail is a battery that is safer, costs less, provides longer driving range, and doesn’t use imported “conflict” minerals.
Sixteen years have passed since engineer Martin Eberhard unveiled his futuristic custom-designed sports car before a crowd of investors, journalists, and potential buyers in a Santa Monica Airport hangar. Continue reading →
Yejin Choi leading a research seminar in September at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington. John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
We have shared dozens of links to stories about advances in technology–especially those with application to conservation–none has touched on artificial intelligence. During my daily scanning for articles to share in 2022 I have noticed this topic more and more as a source of fear, to the point where I stopped reading them; but today’s is different:
Artificial intelligence stirs our highest ambitions and deepest fears like few other technologies. It’s as if every gleaming and Promethean promise of machines able to perform tasks at speeds and with skills of which we can only dream carries with it a countervailing nightmare of human displacement and obsolescence. But despite recent A.I. breakthroughs in previously human-dominated realms of language and visual art — the prose compositions of the GPT-3 language model and visual creations of the DALL-E 2 system have drawn intense interest — our gravest concerns should probably be tempered. At least that’s according to the computer scientist Yejin Choi, a 2022 recipient of the prestigious MacArthur “genius” grant who has been doing groundbreaking research on developing common sense and ethical reasoning in A.I. Continue reading →
When Pradip Krishen began creating Jaipur’s Kishan Bagh Desert Park, it was a wasteland of dunes and bald hillocks, strewn with trash. Looking at the landscape, he said, “Now, this is something I’d love to work on. ”Photographs by Bharat Sikka for The New Yorker
If I had to bet, based on our period living in India from 2010 to 2017, I would bet on the prime minister winning. That implies the country making less progress on conservation, if any, and more on development. As Dorothy Wickenden‘s article implies, it may be a zero sum game:
Ecologists are trying to undo environmental damage in rain forests, deserts, and cities. Can their efforts succeed even as Narendra Modi pushes for rapid development?
Krishen’s first major restoration job was reclaiming the landscape around Mehrangarh Fort, in the Thar Desert.
On May 12, 1459, the Rajput warrior ruler Rao Jodha laid the first foundation stone of an impregnable fort, atop a jagged cliff of volcanic rock in the Thar Desert of Marwar. He called the citadel Mehrangarh, or “fort of the sun”—and, legend has it, he insured a propitious future by ordering a man buried alive on its grounds. Over time, as the royal clan secured its power, the compound grew to colossal proportions, with soaring battlements, ornately furnished palaces, and grand courtyards enclosed by intricate sandstone latticework. Four hundred feet below, the capital city of Jodhpur became a flourishing trade center. Continue reading →
Van Cortlandt Lake, one of the many places popular with birds — and those who watch them.
Early in our life together, in the early/mid-1980s, Amie and I lived in two of the five boroughs that make up New York City. We never lived in the one that today, we learn, has had the most nature all along (we thank David Gonzalez for both the photographs and text of this article).
While we are not giving up the greener pastures we chose decades ago to be our home base, we are happy to know that The Bronx is so green, and can even picture making a special trip to visit this often unheralded part of New York City:
If you said Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island or Queens, guess again.
From hidden coves tucked along the Orchard Beach marshes to wide promenades covered by regal arches of trees in Soundview, there is a lot more green to the Bronx than the zoo or the infield at Yankee Stadium. The pastoral vibe might make you think you’re upstate, but as they said in the classic ’80s hip-hop movie “Beat Street,” this is the Bronx. Continue reading →
More than six billion baguettes are sold every year in France. But the bread is under threat, with bakeries vanishing in rural areas.
PARIS— It is more French than, perhaps, the Eiffel Tower or the Seine. It is carried home by millions each day under arms or strapped to the back of bicycles. It is the baguette, the bread that has set the pace for life in France for decades and has become an essential part of French identity.
On Wednesday, UNESCO, the United Nations heritage agency, named the baguette something worthy of humanity’s preservation, adding it to its exalted “intangible cultural heritage” list. Continue reading →
Dawn rises over a forest outside Orono, Me. Researchers want to understand what leads mice, voles and other small animals to bury seeds that become forests.
There really are coincidences that have nothing to do with the overreach of internet companies who see what you are reading in one place and put something in front of you instantly, and for a long time following, based on that first subject. In this case, I was reading about the endless quest for a better mousetrap, and then came upon this fascinating article about the ecosystem services that mice convey. This was as smile-inducing a juxtaposition as my reading has provided me lately. I hope I am correct that this pure chance and not some creepy algorithm, which would wilt my grin:
A deer mouse, temporarily captured for a behavioral test before being rereleased to the grounds of a study site at the University of Maine in late October.
Scientists are unearthing a quiet truth about the woods: Where trees grow, or don’t, depends in part on the quirky decisions of small mammals.
It’s easy to look at a forest and think it’s inevitable: that the trees came into being through a stately procession of seasons and seeds and soil, and will replenish themselves so long as environmental conditions allow.
Hidden from sight are the creatures whose labor makes the forest possible — the multitudes of microorganisms and invertebrates involved in maintaining that soil, and the animals responsible for delivering seeds too heavy to be wind-borne to the places where they will sprout. Continue reading →
Leaving aside the question of why so many of the world’s most important historical artifacts are in London, rather than where they originated, the curator in the video above is charming. And the man in the photo just below to the right is his counterpart in the place where this particular artifact originated. My interest in board games is much less well informed, but like Mr. Mofaq I have an interest in their revival, so Deb Amlen’s article in the New York Times is appreciated:
Hoshmand Mofaq, an Iraqi artist, pondered his next move on one of the Royal Game of Ur boards he designed. Mr. Mofaq is part of a group who hope to popularize and return the game to the Iraqi people as part of their cultural heritage. Shwan Mohammed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
For 4,600 years, a mysterious game slept in the dust of southern Iraq, largely forgotten. The passion of a museum curator and the hunger of young Iraqis for their cultural history may bring it back.
It is the end of a long, hot day of selling your wares in a market in ancient Mesopotamia, around 2,400 B.C., and you are looking for a way to unwind.
Netflix will not be invented for another four and a half millenniums, but as luck would have it, a pub lies ahead in the distance. A beer and a round of the Middle East’s favorite game is just the thing to pick you up. The thrill of the game is irresistible: It is impossible to predict who will win in this race to get your pieces to the end of the board, even in the last few moves.
One of the boards of the Royal Game of Ur excavated in the 1920s, on display at the British Museum. The British Museum, via Commons.wikimedia.org
You sit down across from your opponent, who offers you the first turn. You pick up the four-sided dice and shake them in your fist. Maybe this time the rumored fortunetelling aspect of the game will bless you with a spate of good luck and prosperity. Continue reading →
Pinnacle turbines dot the skyline in Keyser, West Virginia, where, according to Andrew Cosner, a twenty-one-year-old technician, some residents remain hostile to the new wind farm: “They say it ruins the landscape and it’s ugly.”
It is to each of us whether we find the view attractive or not, and there was a time when I found large man-made structures an imposition on pastoral beauty.
Smith stands in the nacelle of one of the turbines just before daybreak.
As time passes I find myself drawn more to such a view as that in the photo above as a signal of progress. It is not because the view is in a place far away from me– on the mountain ridge above where I live there is a row of such turbines and I am constantly gazing at that horizon. Published in the print edition of the November 28, 2022, issue of the New Yorker, with the headline “Blade Runners,” D.T. Max provides some context, but the photos do the heavy lifting:
Stelios Trilyrakis, the chef behind Ntounias in Crete, pats one of his heritage cows, a rare Cretan species called Gidomouskara. SteMajourneys
I have a longstanding habit, in an article like this one listing travel experiences including 5. Savor an Unforgettable Lunch at Ntounias in Western Crete, of skimming to find whether the writer(s) have been to anywhere that I know firsthand; if they write something meaningful about a place I know, I read the entire article. These days I have less interest in going to places I do not already know (between 57 and 60 countries where I have had meaningful experiences, ranging from a few days to living there for a year or more).
When I see Crete, I am all in, for reasons I have made plain previously. In this case I want to abandon all responsibilities and get on a plane.
Since that is not possible I am left to desk-travel, which is what I did to learn more about this place. I see now that on the two occasions when I have mentioned Xania I have spelled it two different ways. With the X my spelling was transliterating into English the letter used in the Greek alphabet for spelling that town’s name; otherwise the dipthong of Ch is necessary to produce the sound of the Greek letter that looks like an elongated X. Now that I have excused my spelling discrepancies, and daydreamed of a meal on the island of Crete at a later date, I will get on with my responsibilities.
In Calakmul and elsewhere, the fierce jaguar was worshiped as a deity. Ancient rulers and warriors adorned themselves with the animal’s skulls, skins, fangs and claws. Adrian Wilson for The New York Times
Thanks to Mexican conservation efforts, the jaguar is making a comeback in the Yucatán Peninsula. A traveler ventures into its habitat in the tropical jungles surrounding an ancient Maya city.
From the top of the great pyramid of the ancient Maya city of Calakmul in the southern Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, you can see all the way to Guatemala. The jungle stretches out infinitely in every direction, an ocean of green punctuated only by the stepped pyramid peaks of two other Maya temples. Continue reading →
Following is an article that does something different, and more difficult to find recently. A look at five decades’ accomplishment on one environmental issue in one country, and a takeaway worthy of the photo above: complex, but inspiring. Our thanks as always after a decade relying on Yale e360 for environmental stories, and advocacy; in this case also for introducing us to Andrew S. Lewis, who will now be on our radar:
Sparked by the 1970s environmental movement, the Clean Water Act — which marks its 50th anniversary this month — transformed America’s polluted rivers. The Delaware, once an industrial cesspool, is one of the success stories, but its urban stretches remain a work in progress.
Steve Meserve (second from right) is a fourth-generation shad fisherman who operates the Lewis Fishery, the last commercial shad operation on the Delaware. ANDREW S. LEWIS
When Steve Meserve’s great-grandfather, Bill Lewis, started the Lewis Fishery in 1888, it was one of dozens of commercial outfits scattered up and down the Delaware River that seined for American shad during the spring spawn. At the time, the Delaware’s shad fishery hauled 3 to 4 million of the hard-fighting fish from the river and its tributaries every year. But, soon enough, Lewis discovered that he had gotten into the business just as the river — along with the species it supported — was entering a period of catastrophic decline. Continue reading →
I’ve made salads of peanut with watermelon and sumac, fries dunked in garlic-scented satay sauce, and more variations on my aunt’s Ghanaian groundnut stew than I can remember.
Illustration by Sophia Pappas
It would be hard to find a more devoted champion of the peanut than the agricultural scientist George Washington Carver. Born into slavery in Missouri around 1864, Carver studied at Iowa State University and then taught at the Tuskegee Institute, where he would spend much of the rest of his life learning to repair the environmental damage wrought by intensive cotton farming. Continue reading →
Red or blue, squat or bulbous, seeded or seedless: Bananas have a lot of diversity and scientists have identified genetic signals of varieties that have not yet been found in the wild. guentermanaus/Shutterstock
The music critic Jon Pareles gives Brian Eno’s album its due respect, but saying that the “musician and producer’s new songs meditate on folly and annihilation” does not really make you want to listen to it. This interview title from Wired has a different effect, at least on me:
Today, a photo from Australia, where one of my personal favorite items carried in the Authentica shops arrived recently. A guest purchased it, we shipped it to his wife, and she kindly confirmed that it arrived safely.