Think, While You Can, About The Processed Foods You Eat

Jess Ebsworth

The groceries we shop for, even with the finer shopping options, sometimes disappoint; but some foods are just plain wrong, as this article by Sally Wadyka in the New York Times explains:

The Link Between Highly Processed Foods and Brain Health

Eating packaged foods like cereal and frozen meals has been associated with anxiety, depression and cognitive decline. Scientists are still piecing together why.

Roughly 60 percent of the calories in the average American diet come from highly processed foods. Continue reading

Alcohol 2.0

click this image to go to the video and accompanying text

Alcohol rarely features in our pages, but in the spirit of public service announcement this pair seems worth sharing:

The Opinion Video above is about a drug problem — but not the one you may think. While the United States struggles to deal with the opioid crisis, there’s a quieter drug epidemic that has been unfolding for a lot longer. It involves a substance that was normalized long ago but that, by some measures, plays a role in more than 140,000 deaths a year.

It’s alcohol.

But don’t worry. We here at Opinion Video are not a bunch of temperance reformers coming to take away your six-packs and single malts. We just think there’s a lot more that American lawmakers could be doing to lessen the harm that alcohol causes…

The Economist podcast episode below, from a couple months back, is a useful bookend to the op-ed above. It illuminates the mysteries of the hangover and the chemistry of new alcohol-free, healthy and buzz-inducing alternatives:

How alternatives to alcohol could save lives

Our podcast on science and technology. This week, we explore how innovators are dreaming up ways to enjoy the effects of alcohol, without the costs

ALCOHOL IS the most widely used drug in the world, but it is also the cause of three million deaths each year and has been linked to many other long-term illnesses. Continue reading

Bringing Back Peat

Peatland and taiga forest in northern Finland. NATURE PICTURE LIBRARY / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

It has been a year since we linked to a peat-in-place story, of which there cannot be too many (so thank you, Yale e360):


Finland Drained Its Peatlands. He’s Helping Bring Them Back

Tero Mustonen has led a successful effort to restore roughly 80 areas of ecologically critical peatlands across his native Finland. In an interview, he talks about the importance of bringing Indigenous knowledge to rewilding initiatives in far northern regions and beyond.

Until a century ago, almost a third of Finland was covered in pristine peatlands, which comprise one of the Earth’s largest and most important carbon sinks. Since then, however, half of Finnish peatlands have been strip-mined for fuel or drained to make room for forest plantations. Continue reading

Viewed From Above, Our Most Important Leaks

Illustration by Ard Su

David W. Brown offers this updated look at the use of satellite technology for a key metric:

A Security Camera for the Planet

A new satellite, funded by a nonprofit, aims to pinpoint emissions of methane—a gas that plays a major role in global warming.

When his phone rang, Berrien Moore III, the dean of the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences at the University of Oklahoma, was fumbling with his bow tie, preparing for a formal ceremony honoring a colleague. He glanced down at the number and recognized it as nasa headquarters. This was a bad sign, he thought. In Moore’s experience, bureaucrats never called after hours with good news.

It can see large methane concentrations along its orbital path, but can’t pinpoint emissions sources. Illustration by Ard Su

For roughly six years, Moore and his colleagues had been working on a space-based scientific instrument called the Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory, or GeoCarb. nasa had approved their proposal in 2016; it was now 2022, and GeoCarb was being built by Lockheed Martin, in Palo Alto, California. Once it was in space and mounted to a communications satellite, GeoCarb would scan land in the Western Hemisphere continuously in strips, taking meticulous measurements of three carbon-based gases: carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and methane. It would give scientists a detailed view of the carbon cycle—the process by which carbon circulates through the Earth’s forests, lakes, trees, oceans, ice, and other natural features. Continue reading

Andy Hunter Scales Up Without Selling Out

Andy Hunter, the founder of (pictured here at Spoonbill & Sugartown Books in Brooklyn) developed his love for books early. “I became a reader, in the beginning, because it provided me solace,” he says. PHOTOGRAPH: YAEL MALKA

Who could resist a story about scaling up without selling out–especially when it involves an online book shop?

Our thanks to Kate Knibbs, a senior writer at WIRED, for this profile of someone who has indirectly featured in our pages without being named before.

Not to mention the photographs by Yael Malka accompanying the story:

How Survives—and Thrives—in Amazon’s World

Andy Hunter’s ecommerce platform was a pandemic hit. Now he’s on a mission to prove that small businesses can scale up without selling out.

“DO YOU REMEMBER what kind of beer it was?”


Andy Hunter pauses for so long before answering my question, it’s awkward. He’s racking his brain. I’ve asked him to tell me about the night he came up with the idea that led to his improbably successful bookselling startup, As a former magazine editor, he wants to get the details right.

He remembers the easy stuff: It was 2018. He was on the road for work. At the time, Hunter ran the midsize literary publishing house Catapult, a job that required schmoozing at industry events. The night of his big brainstorm, he was away from his two young daughters and his usual evening obligations—dishes, bedtime rituals—and had a rare moment to think, and drink a beer. Continue reading

Libreria Bookshop & Review Of Once Upon A Prime

Click above to visit an independent bookshop whose platform for selling books online is a welcome distraction. Below, the owner of that shop (a character worth contemplating) writes a great book review. Oddly enough, we could not find, or figure out how to find, this book on his bookshop’s website.

But nevermind that, we have linked to the publisher’s blurb on the book to the left:

Once Upon a Prime review – why maths and literature make a winning formula

Prof Sarah Hart’s exuberant study of the enduring conversation between mathematics and literature is fascinating

The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite, perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries.” That’s how Jorge Luis Borges starts The Library of Babel, beloved by maths geeks and book nerds alike for the way it toys with the mathematical concept of infinity. Continue reading

#CargoUnderSail #RethinkShipping

Illustration by Owen D. Pomery

The Climate Crisis Gives Sailing Ships a Second Wind

Cargo vessels are some of the dirtiest vehicles in existence. Can a centuries-old technology help to clean them up?

In February, 1912, Londoners packed a dock on the River Thames to gawk at the Selandia, a ship that could race through the water without any sails or smokestacks. Winston Churchill, then the minister in charge of the British Royal Navy, declared it “the most perfect maritime masterpiece of the twentieth century.” But, as the Selandia continued its journey around the world, some onlookers were so spooked that they called it the Devil Ship…

The history is a fun read, so continue to the whole story here. But then, take a closer look at the company featured in the article:

Our Story

Over the course of 20 years working in the maritime industry Cornelius Bockermann witnessed first hand how humans adversely affect our environment. He knew something had to change. In 2013, he moved with his family to Cairns and shipped all their possessions from Germany to their new home in Australia. Through the process of shipping his own goods he experienced the disconnect between commerce and environmental preservation. Upon learning of plans to expand fossil fuel based shipping along the Queensland coast and amongst the Great Barrier Reef he knew he had to act. The question became how do you offer businesses and consumers a sustainable option in shipping?

Cargo Under Sail is the answer and the Dutch schooner named the AVONTUUR is the vessel to start it.

We are a passionate collective of individuals working to create a supply chain that merges the relationship between commerce and preservation. We are restless and can no longer wait for others to make a change.

Our Mission Zero

To eliminate pollution caused by shipping cargo.

We have a five-stage approach:

1. Raise Awareness about the environmental destruction caused by the shipping industry

2. Model a clean shipping future with our AVONTUUR

3. Sell premium AVONTUUR products to support the ongoing operation of the project.

4.  Establish a demand for products shipped by sail

5. Build a modern sail cargo fleet

At Long Last, Lamprey Love

A bald eagle carries a sea lamprey snatched from the Connecticut River in Windsor, Vermont. MARY HOLLAND / NATURALLY CURIOUS

Nine years ago lamprey was referenced in a book review; then a couple years later, in a story about dam removal; and again a year later; and more recently with a book review and another dam removal story; today, a story about giving this creature its due:


Long Reviled as ‘Ugly,’ Sea Lampreys Finally Get Some Respect

The sucker-mouthed marine lamprey has been dismissed as grotesque and a threat to sport fish. But fisheries managers in New England and the Pacific Northwest are recognizing the ecological importance of lampreys in their native waters and are stepping up efforts to help them recover.

Native Americans catch lamprey, eel-like fish, at Willamette Falls, a 40-foot waterfall south of Portland, Ore., Friday, June 12, 2015. An ancient fish that’s a source of food for tribes in the Pacific Northwest, lampreys have been in drastic decline in recent decades. (AP Photo/Gosia Wozniacka)

“Thousands of sea lamprey are passed upstream [on the Connecticut River] each year. This is a predator that wiped out the Great Lakes lake-trout fishery. [Lampreys] literally suck the life out of their host fish, namely small-scale fish such as trout and salmon. The fish ladders ought to be used to diminish the lamprey.” So editorialized the Lawrence (Massachusetts) Eagle-Tribune on December 15, 2002.

If that’s true, why this spring is Trout Unlimited — the nation’s leading advocate for trout and salmon — assisting the Town of Wilton, Connecticut and an environmental group called “Save the [Long Island] Sound” in a project that will restore 10 miles of sea lamprey spawning habitat on the Norwalk River? Continue reading

An Optimistic View On Climate

Illustration by Nicholas Konrad / The New Yorker; Source photographs from Getty.

We appreciate the author’s wide reach and tireless exploration for solutions to seemingly unsolvable puzzles:

A Case for Climate Optimism, and Pragmatism, from John Podesta

The veteran political operative now has one of the nation’s top climate jobs. He speaks about the Willow oil-drilling project, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the Biden White House.

“Humanity is on thin ice, and that ice is melting fast,” António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, recently warned, in response to a newly alarming climate report. The ice is melting, in large part, because the world keeps burning fossil fuels. To change that, the U.S. will need to join other nations in replacing machines that burn them—cars, stoves, furnaces, and eventually things like planes and factories—with machines that run on electricity. Continue reading

Natural History Anew

An image from 1957, when the cross and square design was still legible. American Museum of Natural History

We have featured so many natural history museums in our pages over the years that one more might have been redundant; but no:

A new aerial photo shows the museum today, as a crazy quilt of buildings from many eras, with Gilder on the right. Iwan Baan

The article below, by Michael Kimmelman with photographs and video by Peter Fisher, allows us to imagine the experience of a new view on natural history in New York City.

The view at the entrance toward the monumental staircase with bleacher seats.

We are ready to be awed:

The stunning $465 million Richard Gilder Center for Science, designed like a canyon, is destined to become a colossal attraction.

When plans for it first surfaced, I wondered if the new Gilder Center at the Natural History museum might end up looking overcooked.

From the outside it’s a white-pink granite cliff with yawning windows shaped a little like the openings to caves, nestling the museum’s wonderful Romanesque Revival addition from the turn of the last century. Past the front doors, that cliff face morphs. It becomes an atrium in the guise of a towering canyon, a city block deep.

Skylights and balconies in the atrium of the new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation.

For its architects, Jeanne Gang and her team, Gilder was clearly a gamble and leap of faith, bucking today’s innocuous norms, almost begging for charges of starchitectural self-indulgence.

Now that it’s built, I love it.

I wouldn’t go so far as to equate it with the curvaceous genius of Gaudi or with Saarinen’s groovy TWA Terminal, but it’s in the family. Like them, Gilder is spectacular: a poetic, joyful, theatrical work of public architecture and a highly sophisticated flight of sculptural fantasy. New Yorkers live to grouse about new buildings. This one seems destined to be an instant heartthrob and colossal attraction. Continue reading

Lie-Liable Fossil Fuel Companies

Following record rains in April of 2014, a section of Baltimore street simply collapsed. Now there’s some chance of holding the culprits accountable.

Thanks to Bill McKibben for this legal news following plenty of precursor stories on the same topic:

High court lets cities and states sue Exxon et al

…But something else happened yesterday too, with a price tag that may eventually dwarf that settlement, and with even larger potential implications for the future of the planet. The Supreme Court, also tersely, declined to grant cert in a case brought by oil companies desperately trying to hold off state court trials for their climate crimes. Continue reading

Galápagos Reef Discovery, Deep

The video is worth a minute of your time, and the short article that follows is as close as we get to nature-related good news these days. Our thanks, as always, to Yale e360:

Pristine Deep-Sea Reef Discovered in the Galápagos

The newly discovered deep-sea reef in the Galápagos Marine Reserve. WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTION

In Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands, where ocean warming has decimated shallow-water reefs, scientists have discovered a healthy, sprawling coral reef hidden deep under the sea.

“This newly discovered reef is potentially an area of global significance,” Michelle Taylor of the University of Essex, co-lead of the expedition, said in a statement. It is “a site we can monitor over time to see how a pristine habitat evolves with our current climate crisis.” Continue reading

The Forest Gives Much

Freshly harvested logs from the Menominee Forest in Keshena, Wis., marked with color to indicate each log’s grade.

Sustainable forestry is a long-running topic in these pages over the years. The previous times we have linked to Cara Buckley stories we have been enriched by the humanity in environmental stories, so here we combine her unique talent to the topic of forestry:

The Giving Forest

The Menominee tribe has sustainably logged its forest in Wisconsin for 160 years. But that careful balance faces a crisis: too many trees and too few loggers.

A tree marked for cutting. The Menominee harvest only trees that are sick and dying or those that have fallen naturally

MENOMINEE COUNTY, Wis. — Amid the sprawling farmlands of northeast Wisconsin, the Menominee forest feels like an elixir, and a marvel. Its trees press in, towering and close, softening the air, a dense emerald wilderness that’s home to wolves, bears, otters, warblers and hawks, and that shows little hint of human hands.

Yet over the last 160 years, much of this forest has been chopped down and regrown nearly three times. The Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin, its stewards, have pulled nearly two hundred million cubic feet of timber from this land since 1854 — white pine cut into museum displays and hard maple made into basketball courts for the Olympics. Continue reading

Not So Happy Earth Day

Over the past three decades, the rate of ice loss from Greenland has increased sevenfold. Photograph by Kerem Yücel / AFP / Getty

On yet another Earth Day, whatever those two words mean together in tandem these days, a message from a reliable source:

It’s Earth Day—and the News Isn’t Good

New reports show that ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting faster than anticipated, and other disasters loom.

The Greenland ice sheet is, quite literally, a relic of the last ice age. It consists of snow that fell year after year, century after century, and never melted; at the very bottom, there are flakes that fell more than a hundred thousand years ago. Continue reading

California’s Wildflower Bloom Boom

People view fields of flowers at Carrizo Plain National Monument, California’s largest remaining grassland.
Claire Harbage/NPR

When lemons are plentiful, make the best of it:

California’s destructively wet winter has a bright side. You’ll want to see it

A benefit of California’s wet winter is what is known as a superbloom. Flowers including purple phacelia, yellow goldfields, hillside daisies and tidy tips grow at Carrizo Plain National Monument. Claire Harbage/NPR

CARRIZO PLAIN NATIONAL MONUMENT, Calif. — The roads are still rutted where rainwater carved them and farms are still flooded down the valley, but here in California’s largest remaining grassland, the benefits of the state’s destructively wet winter are on full display.

And they’re spectacular.

Wildflowers — yellow, purple, blue and orange — are splattered across the landscape in sweeps and pools like a clumsy airbrush painting.

Flowers are splattered across the landscape at Carrizo Plain. Claire Harbage/NPR

A superbloom. Continue reading

Dam Damage Done

A dried-up reservoir behind a dam in North Karnataka, India. LAKSHMIPRASAD S. / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

A couple of our earliest posts was about life around a dam in India, so the photo heading this article rings a bell of sorts:

As Projects Decline, the Era of Building Big Dams Draws to a Close

Escalating construction costs, the rise of solar and wind power, and mounting public opposition have led to a precipitous decrease in massive new hydropower projects. Experts say the world has hit “peak dams,” which conservationists hail as good news for riverine ecosystems.

The end of the big dam era is approaching. Continue reading

McKibben Embraces Green Building Boom

Grace J. Kim

We link to one person more than anyone else, for good reason:


Yes in Our Backyards
It’s time progressives like me learned to love the green building boom.

The United States is on the brink of its most consequential transformation since the New Deal. Read more about what it takes to decarbonize the economy, and what stands in the way, here

I’m an environmentalist, which means I’ve got some practice in saying no. It’s what we do: John Muir saying no to the destruction of Yosemite helped kick off environmentalism; Rachel Carson said no to DDT; the Sierra Club said no to the damming of the Grand Canyon. Continue reading

Tagging Large Land Animals

The team secure a darted rhino with nylon rope, then take its temperature and use a pulsemeter to monitor its heart rate and blood oxygenation

We have previous links to articles on tagging animals, but few land animals this big:

How to tag a rhino? Use tech, tact … and plenty of caution – a photo essay

Fewer than 2,000 rhino remain in Kenya, and the country’s wildlife service needs to keep tabs on them to make sure they thrive. It’s a major undertaking, involving a helicopter, 4x4s and a lot of rangers

Here comes a chopper … a helicopter is used to dart the highly aggressive black rhino

Kenya has the world’s third largest rhinoceros population: a total of 1,890 including 966 black rhinos, 922 southern white and two northern white. But how to keep track of them and ensure the species are thriving? Every two or three years, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) carries out an ear-notching exercise in all rhino sanctuaries in the country to ensure that at least 60% of the animals are uniquely identifiable. Continue reading

Pesticide Practicalities

The Asahi Shimbun, via Getty Images

Our thanks, as always, to Margaret Renkl:

Long Live the Fireflies (and the Wildflowers and Mosquitoes, Too)

NASHVILLE — The day we moved into this house, 28 years ago next month, a thunderstorm knocked out the power late in the day. My husband was returning the rental van. Our 3-year-old was safely tucked into his old bed in his new room. As night began to fall in the silent house, I sat down on the sofa to cry. Continue reading

Fort Lauderdale Weather In Context

Police evacuate residents from this week’s epic Ft. Lauderdale floods

You probably did not need Bill McKibben’s newsletter to tell you about this weather event, but putting it in context is what he is particularly good at:

We’re in for a stretch of heavy climate

Ominous signs that the next step phase of global warming is starting;

This week’s Fort Lauderdale rainstorm was, on the one hand, an utter freak of nature (storms ‘trained’ on the same small geography for hours on end, dropping 25 inches of rain in seven hours; the previous record for all of April was 19 inches) and on the other hand utterly predictable. Continue reading