Alpine Hydroelectricity

The Nant de Drance pumped hydropower project. NANT DE DRANCE

Especially with news of rivers drying up across Europe, this is a welcome, if surprising story:

Massive Pumped Hydro Facility to Open This Summer in the Swiss Alps

One of the world’s largest pumped hydropower projects, with an electricity storage capacity equivalent to 400,000 electric vehicles, is set to begin operations soon in the Swiss Alps. Continue reading

Ned Beauman’s Venomous Lumpsucker

The reviews are  coming in, and especially this one by David Annand in TLS makes Ned Beauman’s new book look worthy of this moment in human history:

Whimsical and cruel

A tale of capitalism, penance and species extinction

In the 1980s the American literary critic Tom LeClair identified what he called the “systems novel”, a genre of fiction concerned with the characters, acts and situations of the conventional novel while simultaneously speculating on the complex social structures – Continue reading

When Is Organic The Worst Option?

Some 28% of the world’s land is used for grazing. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

We favor organic, for our coffee, for just about everything, almost always. And yet George Monbiot offers a fully obvious answer to the counterintuitive question in the title:

The most damaging farm products? Organic, pasture-fed beef and lamb

You may be amazed by that answer, but the area of land used for grazing is vast compared with the meat and milk produced Continue reading

McKibben With 2022 Perspective

If Timothy Egan thinks that one day Bill McKibben may win a Nobel prize, do not bet against it–only ask whether it will be for his contribution to literature or instead to world peace:

In his writings, his many speeches and bullhorn exhortations, Bill McKibben comes across as one of the least cynical people on the battlefield of public opinion. He’s passionate about solving problems others have given up on, about building a better world and particularly about climate change, the issue that has made him the Paul Revere of alarm about our fevered planet. Continue reading

Rwanda’s Cold Chain Challenge

A “cold chain” protects food as it makes its way from farm to table. Illustration by María Jesús Contreras

A five year gap since the last time we linked to a Nicola Twilley story is not a sign of anything; back with a story on an African nation we have had our eyes on, we are gratified by her latest:

Africa’s Cold Rush and the Promise of Refrigeration

For the developing world, refrigeration is growth. In Rwanda, it could spark an economic transformation.

At one in the morning, several hours before fishing boats launch, François Habiyambere, a wholesale fish dealer in Rubavu, in northwest Rwanda, sets out to harvest ice. In the whole country, there is just one machine that makes the kind of light, snowy flakes of ice needed to cool the tilapia that, at this hour, are still swimming through the dreams of the fish farmers who supply Habiyambere’s business. Flake ice, with its soft edges and fluffy texture, swaddles seafood like a blanket, hugging, without crushing, its delicate flesh. Continue reading

Ominous Humongous Fungus

The mushrooms of Armillaria ostoyae (or Armillaria solidipes), the species of honey mushroom that makes up Humongous Fungus (Getty)

We have linked to one Katherine J. Wu article in the past, and that was to share good news; and we linked to stories about humongous fungus a couple of times–not so much news as fascinating; this time there is an ominous implication to the fungus:

The Bigger This Fungus Gets, the Worse We’re Doing

Human actions have turned a usually beneficial fungus into a bringer of death.

Deep in the loamy soil of forests around the world, there exists a fungus called the honey mushroom that makes its living on death. A parasite that preys on weak trees, it sucks its victims dry of nutrients, then feasts on their postmortem flesh. Continue reading

Olive Trees Thriving In England?

A sheep rests under a tree in Oxfordshire. Trees planted for biodiversity also supply shade for livestock. Photograph: Geoffrey Swaine/Rex/Shutterstock

There is no photo of the olive trees mentioned in this article, but we will take the Helena Horton’s word for it, preposterous as it sounds:

Soil healing and olive growing: how UK farms are coping with looming drought

Some farmers are attempting to mitigate worst effects of dry weather by adopting nature-friendly methods

Across the UK, farmers are looking at the sky and begging for rain. Continue reading

50 Years Protecting The Longest Cave

Stalactites and stalagmites line the floors and ceilings of Mammoth Cave. (Credit: NPS)

National parks, sometimes called the greatest idea and always best thought of as the gifts that keep giving, have been well covered in our pages.

Protecting them, beyond what their legal status provides has been a sub-theme. Today, a story with a different niche of a sub-theme, pointing to the longest cave system in the world, protected by park status:

(Credit: NPS)

50 Years Ago, Cavers Connected Mammoth Cave and Flint Ridge

The half-century anniversary marks the connection that established Mammoth Cave as the longest cave in the world.

Mammoth Cave’s historic entrance is a natural opening that has been used by humans for 5,000 years. (Credit: NPS)

It was the summer of 1972, and Tom Brucker was in a tight spot two generations in the making. His father Roger had created a nonprofit dedicated to the research of caves (aptly named the Cave Research Foundation) alongside colleagues who were exploring the Floyd Collins Crystal Cave in the 1950s — one of the main gateways to the Flint Ridge Cave System. Two decades later, the younger Brucker was squeezing through an extremely narrow passage deep inside Flint Ridge, considered the longest cave system in the world at the time, in an effort to see if it might connect with the similarly spectacular and storied Mammoth Cave system. Continue reading

2022 Nature TTL Winning Photographs

I See You. Wild Portraits winner. When a huge lion looks you right in the eyes, you immediately forget that you are sitting safely in a car. Instinctively, you cower and slowly retreat deeper inside the car so as not to provoke a predator. Fortunately, he and his brothers were busy consuming a young buffalo that had been hunted several minutes earlier. # © Tomasz Szpila / Nature TTL

Alan Taylor and others offer relief through nature photography contests each year, and we thank them all for that; and to Atlantic this year for sharing these from the Nature TTL contest:

Sunset Ray. Underwater winner. A pink whipray splits a school of bannerfish, photographed against the setting sun on a late afternoon at the famous “Tuna Factory” dive site located close to Malé, the capital of the Maldives. # © Andy Schmid / Nature TTL

Winners of the Nature TTL Photographer of the Year 2022

This year’s photography competition attracted more than 8,000 entries in eight different categories celebrating the natural world: Animal Behavior, Camera Traps, Landscapes, Small World, The Night Sky, Underwater, Urban Wildlife, and Wild Portraits. Contest organizers at Nature TTL were kind enough to share some of the winners and runners-up below. The captions were written by the photographers and lightly edited for style.

Pretty in Pollen. Small World runner-up. A micro-moth (Micropterix calthella) is covered in golden balls of pollen from a creeping buttercup flower found in Mutter’s Moor near Sidmouth, Devon, United Kingdom. # © Tim Crabb / Nature TTL

See all of them here.

Wild Celery Grass & Cleaner Waterways

Camden Mayor Vic Carstarphen hands a flat of wild celery to an EPA diver for transplant. KATHERINE RAPIN

Thanks to Katherine Rapin and Yale e360:

River Cleanups Move to the Next Level Using Grasses and Oysters

In the Delaware River and other waterways and estuaries across the United States, scientists and conservationists are restoring aquatic vegetation and beds of mussels and oysters to fight pollution and create a strong foundation for healthy ecosystems.

On a recent summer morning near Camden, New Jersey, two divers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hovered over a patch of sediment 10 feet below the surface of the Delaware River. Continue reading

Resistance Is Futile

Illustration by Kotryna Zukauskaite

We do not have time for the patience required for proving the futility of resistance, but this historical perspective is valuable nonetheless:

When Coal First Arrived, Americans Said ‘No Thanks’

Back in the 19th century, coal was the nation’s newfangled fuel source—and it faced the same resistance as wind and solar today

Steven Preister’s house in Washington, D.C. is a piece of American history, a gorgeous 110-year-old colonial with wooden columns and a front porch, perfect for relaxing in the summer. Continue reading

Ocean, The Book

It has been a long time since our last links to a favorite coffee table book publisher. Next month, it could be yours. And inside we see a page with homage to Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka, old favorites:

Ocean, Exploring the Marine World: (Pre-order)Phaidon Editors, with an introduction by Anne-Marie Melster

Price£44.95

About the book

Pre-order now. This title will ship from September 8th, 2022.

Experience the force, mystery, and beauty of the ocean and seas through more than 300 images – featuring underwater photography, oceanographic maps and scientific illustrations, as well as paintings, sculptures and popular films.

Oceanography and art collide in this visual celebration of humans’ relationship with the marine world. Continue reading

Save Our Sequioas

Photo by AP Photo/Noah Berger

Our thanks to Lindsey Botts for this story:

Can the Save Our Sequoias Act Match Up to Its Name?

Dozens of conservation groups push back against a pending forestry bill

As the Washburn Fire last month threatened to scorch the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park, discussions about how to protect the iconic trees heated up. While most people agree that the trees are treasured monuments that need to be preserved, there is considerable disagreement about how best to do that. Continue reading

Really, Danone?

An aerial view of people standing around the sinkhole in Santa María Zacatepec, a small town in central Mexico. The opening, almost perfectly circular, grew to be longer than a football field. Photograph by Jose Castañares / AFP / Getty

Really, as in, can you not control yourselves? We asked the same of Nestle a couple times in the past:

The Sinkhole That Swallowed a Mexican Farm

A bottled-water company tapped an ancient aquifer that thousands of people and businesses share. Then came the protests.

A Bonafont bottling plant, which was occupied by activists, pictured on September 1, 2021. Photograph by Pedro Pardo / AFP / Getty

On May 29, 2021, a boom reverberated through Santa María Zacatepec, a small town near the city of Puebla, in central Mexico. At first, the sound might have been mistaken for one of the earthquakes or small volcanic eruptions that are common in the area. Then some local children told their mother that a strange hole had appeared in the farmland behind their house. Continue reading

McKibben Smiles

Illustration of a smokestack windmills and trees.

Illustration by João Fazenda

When Bill McKibben is frustrated, you know it. Much less frequently you can find evidence of his ability to take a deep breath and sense some progress, however modest, so enjoy it when it comes, and try to smile:

Big Cat Fever

Ceci n’est pas un chat 1843’s cut-outs of big cats were shot at strategically placed locations across Gloucestershire. To find out how we took the photos go to @1843mag on Instagram

Jem Bartholomew, a freelance journalist in London, and Chris Dorley-Brown, a photographer in London, tell this story in a way that may make you want to visit and see for yourself. The fever is catchy.

Look who’s stalking: the black leopards of Gloucestershire

Frank Tunbridge has spent three decades trying to prove that big cats are prowling England’s green and pleasant land

In autumn 2014, John Bilney was cycling to work at around 6am along a tree-shaded footpath in Dursley, Gloucestershire, when a small cat leapt into his way. “Poor moggy,” he thought, “I’ve scared it.” Then he looked up – and froze. Continue reading

Ever-Improving Solar Technologies & Techniques

Sheep graze alongside a solar array in Dubbo, Australia. JANIE BARRETT / THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD VIA GETTY IMAGES

Solar power, one of the renewables with the greatest promise, continues to improve:

A solar array in Madera County, California, with panels placed side-by-side on the ground. ERTHOS

More Energy on Less Land: The Drive to Shrink Solar’s Footprint

With the push for renewables leading to land-use conflicts, building highly efficient utility-scale solar farms on ever-smaller tracts of land has become a top priority. New approaches range from installing PV arrays that take up less space to growing crops between rows of panels.

Farmers grow hay between solar fences in Donaueschingen, Germany. NEXT2SUN

From the ground, the new solar farm shimmers like a mirage oasis on a hot summer day. Instead of row after slanting row of shiny panels stretching taller than corn, this array, mounted directly on the earth, lies flat as water. Continue reading

Barbados, Leadership & Climate Action

Sargassum seaweed, which thrives in warming oceans, is overtaking a beach in Barbados. Credit: Erika Larsen/Redux, for The New York Times

The region is likely to bear disproportionate challenges from climate change and this island is not taking it lightly. We appreciate the effort described in this story by Abrahm Lustgarten, published by ProPublica:

Until the recent completion of an infrastructure project, Kenneth Blades was able to keep only part of his farmland watered. Credit: Erika Larsen/Redux, for The New York Times

Barbados Resists Climate Colonialism in an Effort to Survive the Costs of Global Warming

Across the Caribbean, soaring national debt is a hidden but decisive aspect of the climate crisis, hobbling countries’ ability to protect themselves from disaster. One island’s leader is fighting to find a way out.

Late on May 31, 2018, five days after she was sworn in as prime minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley and her top advisers gathered in the windowless anteroom of her administrative office in Bridgetown, the capital, for a call that could determine the fate of her island nation. Continue reading

New (To Us) Creatures Of The Deep

A gummy squirrel – Psychropotes longicauda – is a type of sea cucumber. This specimen is 60cm long with red palps, or lips, with which it feeds on sediment on the ocean floor, 5,100m deep

Discoveries still happen, even as the earth burns. Creatures not previously known are being identified 5,000 meters below the surface of the ocean. Some do not even yet have a name:

A spiny sea creature on the ocean floor

Scientists find 30 potential new species at bottom of ocean

Natural History Museum scientists seek to unlock mysteries of deep sea but some fear activity will disturb diversity of the depths

Scientists have found more than 30 potentially new species living at the bottom of the sea. Continue reading

Strategically Planned Mutual Destruction

An extract from a GCC business card for reporters, shared by former journalist Nicky Sundt

In the long run, no winners will emerge from the obfuscation perpetrated by climate deniers. They and we all have children of the future to consider. Their efforts have assured mutual destruction, no matter how much money their denial earned them in the short run. If you are looking for a better understanding of how concern and action over climate change was strategically weakened early on, this is worth a read:

The audacious PR plot that seeded doubt about climate change

Thirty years ago, a bold plan was cooked up to spread doubt and persuade the public that climate change was not a problem. The little-known meeting – between some of America’s biggest industrial players and a PR genius – forged a devastatingly successful strategy that endured for years, and the consequences of which are all around us.

On an early autumn day in 1992, E Bruce Harrison, a man widely acknowledged as the father of environmental PR, stood up in a room full of business leaders and delivered a pitch like no other. Continue reading

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