Adaptation strategies: The good, the bad, and the ugly

A while ago there was a great discussion of the pros and cons of integrating adaptation into global-warming debates (prompted by Nordhaus and Shellenberger's op-ed "preparing for nature's attack"). I just ran across an adaptation strategy that's compelling because it positively engages global warming consequences, without softpeddling or sidestepping the issue. Alex Wilson at Environmental Building News suggests that in order to adapt to increasing environmental volatility, we need to design buildings for passive survivability. Ooh, I like the sound of that ...

My year of teaching environmental science without a textbook

In the first class of the 2005-2006 school year, after calling roll and introducing myself and co-professor Terry Bensel, I told our students they were participating in an experiment. An experiment that, as far as …

Where’s Biodee?

My daughter found and I photographed these creatures yesterday. Can you tell where I am by identifying them? From left to right: Roach (the size of my thumb), day gecko, anole. I wish you luck, because none of them are endemic to this area. Maybe that's the hint you need. More photos in my next post. The next time someone asks you why we should save our biodiversity, tell them this: "Doing so will prolong and improve the lives of billions of people ... including your own sorry ass." This article found in People and Planet summarizes a report just released by the WWF describing compounds recently discovered in the jungles of Borneo with the potential to treat AIDS, TB, cancer, and malaria.

America’s place in the world

George W. Bush has presided over the diminution of America's prestige and influence in ways almost too numerous to count: flouting the Geneva Conventions, permitting torture, launching unprovoked wars, claiming unprecedented executive power, bungling relationships with the UN and virtually every other country on the planet, eroding civil liberties, increasing government secrecy, the list goes on and on. But in the long haul, I think his most grievous blow to this country is the one that is least discussed and understood: his utter failure to prepare the U.S. for the 21st century energy situation. This is treated with typical casual silliness in the press and has provoked little outrage in a public that sees American global hegemony as a fixed fact of life. But it isn't fixed. It isn't immutable. Matter of fact, it's tottering:

Umbra on herbicides

Dear Umbra, How do herbicides (organic, if such exist, or non-organic) work? David Burch South Bend, Ind. Dearest David, Herbicides are considered a subcategory of pesticides, for all you confused by my last pesticide comments. …

Get smart

This is a bit far afield, perhaps, but the British press is reporting that new drivers in the UK will soon have to take an "eco-driving" test in order to get their license. The UK initiative is modelled after a Dutch program that claims that smarter driving habits -- slower acceleration, less braking, lower top speeds -- can shave gas consumption by a third or more. Last year, after a brief (and undeserved) flap over they Toyota Prius's worse-than-advertised mileage, ardent hybrid enthusiasts began circulating advice about how to maximize the vehicles' efficiency. So it's good to see some effort to do the same thing for the 99+ percent of cars on the road that aren't hybrids.

We can expect to see much more of this

A different take on the energy issue:If America is to continue to climb the curve of technological advance, hopefully culminating in a society powered by the ultimately cheap, clean and flexible source of energy -- nuclear fusion, which would give us transmutation of the elements as a "spinoff" -- we must continue to seek out, extract, and refine the petroleum gifts of the Earth. As the prices of oil and gas advance, and ordinary people find it increasingly difficult to heat their homes and drive their cars, they will grow very tired of the self-righteous pseudo-moralizing of the save-the-Earth crowd. At some point, when hundreds or thousands of Americans have died of exposure to the cold and the shortfall of petroleum has precipitated a nationwide depression, anyone who dares to suggest that further energy exploration, extraction, or refinement is unacceptable for some moss-and-dirt-worshipping reason will find himself ornamenting the end of a rope. And you thought idle eliminationist rhetoric was only directed at the anti-war crowd! (via Wolcott)

Roger Mustalish, Amazon researcher and protector, answers questions

Roger Mustalish. With what environmental organization are you affiliated? I’m president of the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research Foundation, a U.S. nonprofit with offices in West Chester, Penn., and in Iquitos and Puerto …

The Songhua Remains the Same

Pollution from November spill in China still taints downstream waterways Months after a factory explosion in China dumped benzene and other chemicals into the Songhua River, thawing ice is releasing a second wave of toxins …

Got 2.7 seconds?

We've devised the world's shortest survey to find out what kind of actions our readers are taking. You know you want to.