Is Cruise Travel Evolving In A Way That Is Good For The Planet?

Cruise ship tourism is unfortunately not disappearing as we might have hoped. Are the ships evolving to be more environmentally and socially responsible? Our thanks to Maria Cramer for asking and attempting to answer the question:

How Green is Your Cruise?

As cruise companies head into their busiest season, they say they have ambitious plans to curb greenhouse emissions and find cleaner sources of fuel. But critics say the progress is too slow.

In the Caribbean, many cruise companies have bought islands and turned them into private resorts for the exclusive use of cruise passengers who cavort in enormous wave pools, rush down 135-foot water slides with names like Daredevil’s Peak, and zip-line across wide beaches. Continue reading

Wooden Utensils & Kitchen Safety

Your cutting board, utensils and coffee maker are among the long list of items in your kitchen that could be leaching dangerous chemicals.

Your cutting board, utensils and coffee maker are among the long list of items in your kitchen that could be leaching dangerous chemicals. Illustration: Julia Louise Pereira/The Guardian

Kitchen safety, per se, is not a topic we have featured in these pages before, even though wooden utensils have been featured:

Wooden spoons and glass mugs: how to avoid toxic chemicals in your kitchen

Tom Perkins has reported widely on the potential risks of toxic chemicals. Here’s his guide to help you find safe alternatives for your kitchen

Chemicals are the invisible guests in our kitchens. You can’t see them but they are everywhere. Continue reading

Giving A Bread Its Due Honor

President Emmanuel Macron of France described the baguette as “250 grams of magic and perfection in our daily lives.” Eric Gaillard/Reuters

When the baguette was a daily part of our family’s life, we were fortunate to have a personal connection to the best guide, whose photo in the story below is as fitting as the photo above:

Steven Kaplan, perhaps the baguette’s most dedicated historian, says the bread has “little sites of memories” that “testify to a sensuality.” Daniel Janin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A Slice of France, the Baguette Is Granted World Heritage Status

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

The Box Footprint

Photo illustration by Todd St. John

We have barely scratched the surface on the ecological or the social implications of online retailing’s growing share of the economy. Until now, no attention to the boxes, specifically, so today we are happy to find excellent reporting focused on that. Cardboard is an increasing part of the lives of most of us living in digital economies, so thanks to Matthew Shaer for letting us know more about it:

Where Does All the Cardboard Come From? I Had to Know.

Entire forests and enormous factories running 24/7 can barely keep up with demand. This is how the cardboard economy works.

Stacks of unprinted, uncut cardboard at the International Paper factory in Lithonia, Ga. Christopher Payne for The New York Times

Before it was the cardboard on your doorstep, it was coarse brown paper, and before it was paper, it was a river of hot pulp, and before it was a river, it was a tree. Probably a Pinus taeda, or loblolly pine, a slender conifer native to the Southeastern United States. “The wonderful thing about the loblolly,” a forester named Alex Singleton told me this spring, peering out over the fringes of a tree farm in West Georgia, “is that it grows fast and grows pretty much anywhere, including swamps” — hence the non-Latin name for the tree, which comes from an antiquated term for mud pit. “See those oaks over there?” Singleton went on. “Oaks are hardwood, with short fibers. Fine for paper. Book pages. But not fine for packaging, because for packaging, you need the long fibers. A pine will give you that. An oak won’t.”

A timber farm in Rome, Ga., that supplies I.P. Christopher Payne for The New York Times

Singleton, who is 54, with a shaved head and graying beard, has spent the past few years as a fiber-supply manager for International Paper, or I.P., a packaging concern headquartered in Memphis. Continue reading

Precision Fermentation’s Implied Potential

Illustration: Eleanor Shakespeare/The Guardian

It is the first time we are seeing these two words together, and George Monbiot has this to say about the potential implied:

Embrace what may be the most important green technology ever. It could save us all

Never mind the yuck factor: precision fermentation could produce new staple foods, and end our reliance on farming

So what do we do now? After 27 summits and no effective action, it seems that the real purpose was to keep us talking. If governments were serious about preventing climate breakdown, there would have been no Cops 2-27. The major issues would have been resolved at Cop1, as the ozone depletion crisis was at a single summit in Montreal. Continue reading

Coral Defying The Odds

Corals in the waters of the Ras Mohammed National Park in the Red Sea near Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, home to one of the only reefs in the world that can tolerate heat. Sima Diab for The New York Times

Our thanks to Jenny Gross and Vivian Yee reporting from Egypt:

Attendees of the United Nations climate conference took breaks from negotiations to see the corals for themselves.Credit…Mohammed Abed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As warming waters devastate coral around the world, the sea’s stunningly colorful reefs have been remarkably resilient. But pollution, mass tourism and overfishing put them at risk.

SHARM El SHEIKH, Egypt — The vast majority of the world’s coral reefs are likely to be severely damaged in the coming decades if the planet keeps warming at its current rate. Continue reading

Greenhouse By Joost

We have not heard news of Joost Bakker in over a decade, so Max Veenhuyzen’s profile and introduction to the documentary previewed above is most welcome:

‘We can have houses covered with biology, plants, ecosystems and waterfalls’: Greenhouse by Joost documents the green-thinking initiatives of Future Food System. Photograph: Dean Bradley/Madman Entertainment

Mushroom walls and waste-fuelled stoves: inside the self-sufficient home of tomorrow

Joost Bakker believes a house can be more than a place to live: it can be a self-sustaining weapon against the climate crisis. A new Australian documentary explores his bold blueprint

Future Food System is anchored by self-watering garden beds filled with 35 tonnes of soil. Photograph: Earl Carter Images

“The most destructive things we humans do,” says Joost Bakker, “is eat.”

In terms of sentences that grab your attention, the introduction to new Australian documentary Greenhouse by Joost is right up there. Then again, Bakker – a multi-disciplinary designer, no-waste advocate and the film’s eponymous protagonist – has long been something of a provocateur. Continue reading

What Billionaires Are Responsible For

Andrew Steer speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos in May. Photograph: Ciaran McCrickard/World Economic Forum

At first, and even second glance, this argument is reasonable, so we share it in good faith:

Billionaires should not make up climate finance gaps, says Bezos Earth Fund head

Rich countries ‘not living up to obligations’, says Andrew Steer, in charge of $10bn environmental fund

Billionaires can not be expected to make up for climate finance gaps left by rich countries that fail to deliver on promises to the developing world, the head of the Bezos Earth Fund has said…

The article is worth reading at the source, in the Guardian, and our thanks as always to that newspaper and Patrick Greenfield.

But if you want a different take on what billionaires are responsible for, you might want to read what Anand Giridharadas has to say on the topic.

Or, at least read the review in the Guardian of his 2018 book.

A Paradox Wrapped In A Conundrum

We almost always side with the animals. But sometimes there are no easy answers. Just puzzles.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX. Harbor seals hauled out at low tide on the Nisqually River on October 10, 2022.

In this case, for what it is worth, our support is with the humans:

Seals and sea lions vex Washington tribes as Marine Mammal Protection Act turns 50

50 years ago, President Nixon signed the Marine Mammal Protection Act into law. The act has been hugely successful in restoring the abundance of the marine species it protects. But some say it’s too successful.

Tribes in particular say their treaty rights to fishing are under threat because now, too many seals and sea lions are feasting on endangered salmon. Continue reading

Community Challenges To Going Solar

Farmer Norm Welker on his land in Starke county, Indiana, where a solar power field is being constructed. Photograph: Taylor Glascock/The Guardian

Our thanks to Oliver Milman, as ever, and the Guardian, as always, for this story from the front lines of getting it done in spite of opposition:

One of Connie Ehrlich’s anti-solar billboards in Winamac, Indiana. Photograph: Taylor Glascock/The Guardian

‘It’s got nasty’: the battle to build the US’s biggest solar power farm

A community turns on itself over the aptly named Mammoth solar project, a planned $1.5bn power field nearly the size of Manhattan

When proposals for the largest solar plant ever conceived for US soil started to gather pace – a plan that involves spearing several million solar panels into the flat farmland of northern Indiana – something in Connie Ehrlich seems to have snapped. Continue reading

Animal-Free Meat & Racing The Clock

BlueNalu’s fried cell-cultured yellowtail amberjack fish taco. Photograph: Courtesy of BlueNalu

Whether the meat you eat is from land animals or from the ocean, the chances are high that you will be eating man-made versions sooner rather than later:

‘Fishless fish’: the next big trend in the seafood industry

‘Alternative seafood’ is having a moment, with the rise of companies like BlueNalu and Wildtype, which has the backing of Leonardo DiCaprio

In the middle of San Francisco, there’s a pilot production plant for Wildtype, one of a handful of cell-cultivated seafood companies in the US. Inside, it’s growing sushi-grade coho salmon in tanks similar to those found in breweries – no fishing or farming required. Continue reading

Memo From Mr. Gates

We have only rarely linked to stories featuring or mentioning Mr. Gates.

This is not because we do not value his opinions; we think he is the smart money on multiple fronts. Climate change is one of them.

Even if we consider McKibben the more reliable scribe, and even if we give Malmo his due, this is still smart money territory:

The state of the energy transition

My annual memo about the journey to zero emissions.

When I first started learning about climate change 15 years ago, I came to three conclusions. First, avoiding a climate disaster would be the hardest challenge people had ever faced. Second, the only way to do it was to invest aggressively in clean-energy innovation and deployment. And third, we needed to get going. Continue reading

Plus De Ce Méfait, S’il Vous Plaît

As an energy crisis looms, Paris officials have taken steps to reduce nighttime lights, as have conservation-minded Parkour practitioners. Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

We cannot presume to cheer this type of mischief anywhere else, but considering the origin story of parkour, and the incentives for activism, it seems fitting for the City of Lights:

With Leaps and Bounds, Parkour Athletes Turn Off the Lights in Paris

As an energy crisis looms, nimble young activists are using superhero-like moves to switch off wasteful lights that stores leave on all night.

Kevin Ha extinguishing a store’s lights last month. Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

Paris— After taking a few steps back to get a running start, Hadj Benhalima dashed toward the building, pushed against its wall with his foot, propelled himself upward and stretched out his arm.

At the peak of his leap, he flipped off a light switch, more than 10 feet off the ground. A click sound rang out, and the bright lights of a nearby barbershop went off instantly.

“Oooh,” his friends cheered, as Mr. Benhalima, a thin 21-year-old dressed all in black, landed back on the sidewalk. It was the second store sign he had turned off on a recent nighttime tour across Paris’s upscale neighborhoods. Many more would follow as he soared up and dropped back down across the city. Continue reading

The Race That Matters Most

Bernice Lee, an expert on climate politics at Chatham House, says: “Good results at a global level are built on strong domestic, local and regional action.” Illustration: Nathalie Lees

Thanks to the Guardian’s Environment editor, Damian Carrington, as always, for reminding us which horse to bet on:

Hope amid climate chaos: ‘We are in a race between Armageddon and awesome’

Renewables, decarbonisation, activism, cooperation … The challenge is immense, but the situation is far from hopeless

Every one of us will love someone who is still alive in 2100, says climate campaigner Ayisha Siddiqa. That loved one will either face a world in climate chaos or a clean, green utopia, depending on what we do today.

It’s a powerful reason for action, providing hope that the will for transformative change can be found. Continue reading

Reducing Emissions & Living Well

Gauchos at the Pintado wind farm in Corral de Piedra, Uruguay.

Gauchos at the Pintado wind farm in Corral de Piedra, Uruguay. Alessandro Cinque for The New York Times

We normally think of Costa Rica to answer this question, but it is in good company:

No greater challenge faces humanity than reducing emissions without backsliding into preindustrial poverty. One tiny country is leading the way.

Let’s say you live in the typical American household. It doesn’t exist, not in any sense except in a data set, but it’s easy enough to imagine.

“We learn to live with less here,” says a former bank analyst, Ignacio Estrada, who had decided to take a 75 percent pay cut to return home. “And it’s made my life better.”

“We learn to live with less here,” says a former bank analyst, Ignacio Estrada, who had decided to take a 75 percent pay cut to return home. “And it’s made my life better.” Alessandro Cinque for The New York Times

Maybe it’s your aunt’s, or your neighbor’s, or a bit like your own. Since more than half of us live outside big cities, it’s probably in a middle-class suburb, like Fox Lake, north of Chicago.

Uruguay’s national director of energy, Ramón Méndez, at home in Montevideo.

Uruguay’s national director of energy, Ramón Méndez, at home in Montevideo. Alessandro Cinque for The New York Times

You picked it because it’s affordable and not a terrible commute to your job. Your house is about 2,200 square feet — a split-level ranch, perhaps. You’re in your mid-30s and just welcomed your first child. Together with your partner you make about $70,000 a year, some of which goes toward the 11,000 kilowatts of electricity and 37,000 cubic feet of natural gas you use to heat the house, play video games and dry your clothes. You take six or seven plane flights a year, to visit your mom after her surgery or attend a conference, and drive about 25,000 miles, most of which you barely register anymore, as you listen to Joe Rogan or Bad Bunny. Maybe twice a month you stop at Target and pick up six or seven things: double-sided tape, an extra toothbrush, an inflatable mattress. Continue reading

Fishing Endgame

Note: Data for 2020 is from June 2020 through May 2021; for 2021, it is from June 2021 through May 2022.

Overfishing and potential solutions have received lots of attention in our pages over the years. It is not a new problem. And yet, we now have better metrics for how serious the problem is and who is responsible, currently, for making the problem worse. The screenshot to the left does not capture the full value of the dynamic illustration accompanying this article. Click the image to go to the source:

A Chinese ship fishing for squid off the west coast of South America in July 2021. Isaac Haslam/Sea Shepherd via Associated Press

How China Targets the Global Fish Supply

With its own coastal waters depleted, China has built a global fishing operation unmatched by any other country.

Rich and ecologically diverse, the waters around the Galápagos Islands have attracted local fishermen for centuries. Now, these waters face a much larger, more rapacious hunter: China. Continue reading

Patagonia 2.0

Details of a desk in a Patagonia office with a stack of orange and brown stickers that read “defend bears ears national monument’ on top of stacks of magazines and papers.

Patagonia has become more politically active, going so far as to sue the Trump administration in a bid to protect the Bears Ears National Monument. Laure Joliet for The New York Times

We have mentioned this company multiple times in our pages over the years, because we take inspiration from it, the same way we have taken inspiration from the example set by Chuck Feeney. It is worth noting that I also value everything I have ever bought from Patagonia. The day of this blizzard in New York I took an old beat up backpack in to see if they could repair it in the nearby shop; instead, they gave me a new one.

Good quality products, combined with good service, make the good environmental values of the company all the better:

“Hopefully this will influence a new form of capitalism that doesn’t end up with a few rich people and a bunch of poor people,” said Mr. Chouinard. Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

Billionaire No More: Patagonia Founder Gives Away the Company

Mr. Chouinard filmed an announcement for his employees at home in Wyoming. By giving away the bulk of their assets during their lifetime, the Chouinards have established themselves as among the most charitable families in the country. Natalie Behring for The New York Times

A half century after founding the outdoor apparel maker Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, the eccentric rock climber who became a reluctant billionaire with his unconventional spin on capitalism, has given the company away.

Rather than selling the company or taking it public, Mr. Chouinard, his wife and two adult children have transferred their ownership of Patagonia, valued at about $3 billion, to a specially designed trust and a nonprofit organization. They were created to preserve the company’s independence and ensure that all of its profits — some $100 million a year — are used to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land around the globe. Continue reading

Olives, Farmers, Beauty & Beastly Heat

Emilio Parra Doiztua for The New York Times

My thoughts today start with the people who farm olives in this location deprived of the water needed to sustain their livelihoods. Because my mother was born on an olive-producing farm in an olive-privileged region of Greece, my eye is always drawn to stories about olive farmers.

Jaén, a province of Andalusia, has over 67 million olive trees. Emilio Parra Doiztua for The New York Times

When there are photos of olive trees, I am in for the whole story. My strongest, earliest memories are of the olive trees surrounding the terrace of the farmhouse my mother grew up in. Stories about olive farmers challenged by climate change are more difficult to read without sympathy pain, but I do so knowing that olive trees are survivors.

Panacite, a store in Ubeda, sells a range of variants of oil production from the region. Emilio Parra Doiztua for The New York Times

David Segal and José Bautista have reported this story with compassion and clarity:

Spain’s Jaén Province, home to one fifth of the world’s supply of “green gold,” copes with climate change and threats to its way of life.

The branch, plucked from one of thousands of trees in this densely packed olive grove, has browning leaves and a few tiny, desiccated buds that are bunched near the end. To Agustín Bautista, the branch tells a story and the story is about a harvest that is doomed. Continue reading

More Insects In Our Diet

Mealworms, the larval form of the yellow mealworm beetle, have been cooked with sugar by researchers who found that the result is a meat-like flavoring. Photograph: image BROKER/Alamy

Thanks again to Oliver Milman, after a long while,  for this article in the Guardian. The photo is clickbait, so try not to let it get in the way. The story is worthy of attention, unless you are vegan, because of its prediction about how commonplace eating insects will be for most of us in the not too distant future; or should be:

Flavorings made from mealworms could one day be used on convenience food as a source of protein

Insects can be turned into meat-like flavors, helping provide a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional meat options, scientists have discovered. Continue reading