Will Consumers Choose Less Animal Protein, Even With Excellent Alternatives?

It is a theme we cover frequently, and hope to see more of in the future from the Economist’s excellent writers:

Technology can help deliver cleaner, greener delicious food

Whether consumers want it is another question, says Jon Fasman

“Tell me what kind of food you eat, and I will tell you what kind of man you are,” wrote Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a French lawyer and epicure, in the early 19th century. The epigram opens “The Physiology of Taste,” one of those delightfully dilatory, observational works at which his age excelled. Continue reading

Changing Tides

SIERRA-body-WB_2Thanks to Sierra for publishing In Pursuit of an Ecological Resilience in the Anthropocene, an excerpt from Alejandro Frid’s “Changing Tides”:

The birth of my daughter, in 2004, thrust upon me a dual task: to be scientifically realistic about all the difficult changes that are here to stay, while staying humanly optimistic about the better things that we still have.

By the time my daughter turned eleven, I had jettisoned my nos­talgia for the Earth I was born into in the mid-196os—a planet that, of course, was an ecological shadow of Earth 100 years before, which in turn was an ecological shadow of an earlier Earth. Continue reading

News & Perspective

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Firefighters battle the King Fire near Fresh Pond, California, in September 2014. NOAH BERGER / REUTERS

Posts like this one tend to not fare as well with readers visiting our platform. Whoever makes their way here is normally looking for what we normally offer, stories about entrepreneurial conservation. Which we believe can be a winning formula for the challenges at hand. But from time to time, we must acknowledge that the odds look grim.

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Fighting the Camp Fire this month in Magalia, Calif. Credit Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Two articles, both very well written, about the report warning of the dangers of climate change to the US economy, note that the report is not likely to have much impact. Because of Black Friday? No, because the forces behind willful ignorance have been at it for a long time, with plentiful resources to strengthen their game. This cartoon says more in fewer words than either article on why. Nathaniel Rich’s short essay, dark and stark and alarming, is akin. Bill McKibben, though, once again hits the nail squarely and firmly, and more effectively than news, because of his trench-based perspective:

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California is currently ablaze, after a record hot summer and a dry fall set the stage for the most destructive fires in the state’s history. Above: The Woolsey fire, near Los Angeles, seen from the West Hills. Photograph by Kevin Cooley for The New Yorker

How Extreme Weather Is Shrinking the Planet

With wildfires, heat waves, and rising sea levels, large tracts of the earth are at risk of becoming uninhabitable. But the fossil-fuel industry continues its assault on the facts.

Thirty years ago, this magazine published “The End of Nature,” a long article about what we then called the greenhouse effect. I was in my twenties when I wrote it, and out on an intellectual limb: climate science was still young. But the data were persuasive, and freighted with sadness. We were spewing so much carbon into the atmosphere that nature was no longer a force beyond our influence—and humanity, with its capacity for industry and heedlessness, had come to affect every cubic metre of the planet’s air, every inch of its surface, every drop of its water. Scientists underlined this notion a decade later when they began referring to our era as the Anthropocene, the world made by man.

I was frightened by my reporting, but, at the time, it seemed likely that we’d try as a society to prevent the worst from happening. Continue reading

Art of the Anthropocene

A series by Mr. Guariglia depicting the impacts of agriculture and mining on the Asian continent. The shimmering panels are layered with gold and other precious-metal leaf, gesso and acrylic ink. Below right is botryoidal slab of malachite from a mine in Africa. Credit Nathan Bajar for The New York Times

Tapping into a long, intertwined history of “photographers depicting nature with an eye to its fragility”, multimedia artist Justin Brice Guariglia translates his unprecedented access to NASA mission flights to visually quantify what is currently coined the Anthropocene Era.

Readers lucky enough to have the opportunity to view his coming exhibition, at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Fla., from Sept. 5 to Jan. 7 should do so!

Earlier this year at the Telluride Mountainfilm Festival, the artist Justin Brice Guariglia fell into conversation with a stranger.

“I got stuck on a gondola ride with a climate change denier,” Mr. Guariglia said recently. The stranger clearly had no idea who he was dealing with.

Not only had Mr. Guariglia previously talked his way into joining a NASA scientific mission over Greenland so that he could photograph melting polar ice caps. He also had even created a mobile app called After Ice, which allows users to take a selfie that is overlaid with a watery filter indicating the sea level projected in their geo-tagged location in the 2080s.

So when the man on the gondola said the earth’s warming temperatures were just part of a cycle, Mr. Guariglia recalled, “I took off my jacket and I said, ‘Does this look like a cycle to you?’” Continue reading

Urban Shape & Ecoefficiency

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Thanks to Anthropocene for this summary of a counterintuitive finding:

To save energy on heating and cooling, look at the shape of cities, not just their buildings

Boosting Crop Yields Without GMO

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Yann Coeuru/Flickr.com

Thanks to Anthropocene for this summary on agricultural technology possibly breaking through the GMO debate in the near future:

A non-GMO approach to producing bigger, better wheat

by Catherine Elton

Researchers have developed a new technology that not only increases the yield of wheat plants, but also makes them more resilient to drought. What makes this technology so interesting is that—if  successful in field trials—it might provide an alternative to genetic modification approaches to boosting wheat yields. Continue reading

Carbon Capturing Crystals

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Thanks to Anthropocene for this summary of a scientific news item worthy of our attention:

A cheaper way to pull carbon dioxide from the air, turn it into crystals

Urban Environments & Evolution

 

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Header image: Street art in London by Aida. Credit: Maureen Barlin via Flickr.

Anthropocene is back, after a brief holiday break, with a good summary of findings on urban-influenced evolution:

Cities are the new laboratories of evolution

Anthropocene Urban Wonder

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Central Park, New York City. Credit: Anthony Quintano via Flickr.

Thanks to Anthropocene:

Looking for the next miracle drug? Try searching city soils

Sarah DeWeerdt

Many drugs are based on molecules produced by bacteria. Previously, the search for such drugs has mostly focused on “pristine” environments in far-flung locales. But a new study shows that many useful molecules could already be, quite literally, at our feet. Continue reading

Public Art Pulling More Than Its Own Weight

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Thanks to Anthropocene:

Art That Delivers Clean Water & Power

An international competition challenges designers to show that clean energy production and dazzling public art can be one and the same

Since 2010, the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) has sponsored site-specific design competitions, soliciting ideas for public art that generates clean power. Its 2016 contest was the most ambitious yet. It called on designers to conceive of art installations that generate both clean power and water for the city of Santa Monica, California. Continue reading

Coffee Grounds To The Rescue

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Kevin O’Mara/Flickr.com

Thanks again, after a series of earlier excellent items, Anthropocene:

A caffeine fix for heavy metal cleanup

Each year, coffee drinkers across the globe create six million pounds of waste in the form of spent coffee grounds. Some of us chuck it in our compost pile, but most of it becomes just another garbage disposal challenge. Continue reading

The Journey We Are All Responsible For

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28 Millimeters, Women Are Heroes. Action in Phnom Penh, Open Eyes, Cambodge, 2009

A big part of what we do when we are not adding to these pages involves helping people all over the world plan journeys. We want them to stay in places that we have developed and/or that we manage because we have worked to reduce our contribution to negative anthropocentric travel impacts. There are positive impacts also, of course, including resources flowing to places where they are needed for human development, which in turn increases the likelihood of conservation efforts succeeding.

I was happy to see this newly revamped online publication back in these pages recently, and today as I went to their website I am even more happy to see this amazing article by a writer who was liberally linked to in our first couple of years on this platform. We have enormous respect for Mr. Revkin’s commitment to many of the same things we work on day in and day out. This is a long article, but worth the time and attention:

An Anthropocene Journey

The word “anthropocene” has become the closest thing there is to common shorthand for this turbulent, momentous, unpredictable, hopeless, hopeful time—duration and scope still unknown

By Andrew C. Revkin
October 2016

My reporting career has taken me from smoldering, fresh-cut roadsides in the Amazon rain forest to the thinning sea ice around the North Pole, from the White House and Vatican to Nairobi’s vast, still-unlit slums. Throughout most of it, I thought I was writing about environmental and social problems and solutions.

Lately I’ve come to realize that my lifelong beat, in essence, has been one species’ growing pains. After tens of thousands of years of scrabbling by, spreading around the planet, and developing tools of increasing sophistication, humans are in surge mode and have only just started to become aware that something profound is going on. The upside has been astounding. Child and maternal mortality rates have plunged. Access to education has soared. Deep poverty is in sharp retreat. Despite the 24/7 distilled drama online and on TV, violence on scales from war to homicide has been in a long decline.

Perspective On The Ages

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The Geologic History of Earth. Note the timescales. We are currently in the Holocene, which has been warm and moist and a great time to grow human civilization. But the activity of civilization is now pushing the planet into a new epoch which scientists call the Anthropocene. Ray Troll/Troll Art

Big words in the title may distract from the excellent point of this “cosmos & culture” article at National Public Radio (USA), worth a read:

Climate Change And The Astrobiology Of The Anthropocene

You can’t solve a problem until you understand it. When it comes to climate change, on a fundamental level we don’t really understand the problem.

For some time now, I’ve been writing about the need to broaden our thinking about climate. That includes our role in changing it — and the profound challenges those changes pose to our rightly cherished “project” of civilization. Continue reading

The Anthropocene

I wrote yesterday about the North American cod stocks that have practically disappeared during the last century as a result of overfishing. Needless to say, this is just one of many species that humans have had a seriously detrimental effect upon in their shaping of the Earth. An article from The Economist this May discusses the geological forces that humans have had on the Earth, focusing on topics like the carbon cycle or nitrogen fixation rather than species extinction.

Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer coined the term “Anthropocene” in 2000 to classify what they see as a new age on the geological time scale, and the fairly abrupt and sharp decline of cod may be one of the many changes visible in the fossil record thousands or millions of years from now. As you can see in the image below, we are currently in the Holocene, but Crutzen and Stoermer, along with many other scientists, including several of those in the International Commission on Stratigraphy (which arbitrates the geological time scale), believe that we have entered an age primarily shaped by Homo sapiens.

Image from The Economist

Continue reading