Your ‘Recycled’ Grocery Bag Might Not Have Been Recycled

Top: In 2015, recycling is sorted at the Sims Municipal Recycling Facility in New York City. Visual: Spencer Platt/Getty Images Recent laws encourage recycling old plastic into new products. But verifying recycled content relies on tricky math. BY IAN MORSE TO JUMPSTART A paltry market for recycled plastic, governments across the globe are pushing companies to include recycled materials in their products. Last year, the United Kingdom introduced a tax on manufacturers that produce or import plastic packaging containing less than 30 percent recycled plastic. In 2024, New Jersey will begin enforcing similar rules, albeit with lower targets. California now requires that beverage containers be made of 15 … Continue reading Your ‘Recycled’ Grocery Bag Might Not Have Been Recycled

How Nature Can Help Cities Survive

Top: The central downtown district of Singapore. Visual: Calvin Chan Wai Meng/Moment via Getty Images Book Review – Ben Wilson’s “Urban Jungle” is a nuanced history of urban ecology, and its vital role in the climate-change era. BY RICHARD SCHIFFMAN CITIES ARE AT WAR with the natural world. To build them, forests are razed, streams get buried underground, wetlands are filled in, and wildlife gets exiled to the suburbs and beyond. Worst of all, Ben Wilson reports in “Urban Jungle: The History and Future of Nature in the City,” the residents of cities are outsized consumers of the Earth’s resources, responsible for three quarters … Continue reading How Nature Can Help Cities Survive

How Light Pollution Is Upending the Natural World

Top: A long exposure photo shows the paths of numerous flying insects attracted to a street light. Visual: Matt Mawson/Moment via Getty Images Johan Eklöf’s “The Darkness Manifesto” offers a powerful argument for turning down the lights and embracing the dark. BY SARAH SCOLES JOHAN EKLÖF was a graduate student in 2001 when he found himself deep inside Malaysia’s Krau Wildlife Reserve. He was there to attend a workshop on bats, his favored creatures of the night, and a television crew was on site. “One evening, during dinner, one of the film crew’s large lights was left on, directed up toward the … Continue reading How Light Pollution Is Upending the Natural World


Professor María Uriarte assesses damage to the Luquillo Experimental Forest of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Photo courtesy UriarteL How atomic doomsday experiments, fuelled by Cold War fears, shaped then shook ecologists’ faith in self-healing nature by Laura J Martin is a historian and ecologist and a professor of environmental studies at Williams College in Massachusetts. She is the author of Wild by Design: The Rise of Ecological Restoration (2022).  When Hurricane Fiona flooded regions of Puerto Rico with up to 30 inches of rain in September last year, the island was still recovering from hurricanes Irma and Maria, two catastrophic storms in … Continue reading Disturbance

If not vegan, then what?

A herd of longhorn cattle and their calves on a farm outside Cambridge, United Kingdom. Photo by Andrew Testa/Panos A vegan diet can be hard to adopt, even if you’re convinced it’s the right thing to do. What are the next-best options? By Peter Godfrey-Smith – is professor of history and philosophy of science at the University of Sydney. He is the author of Metazoa: Animal Life and the Birth of the Mind (2020) and Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness (2016), among others. He lives near Sydney. Suppose a person is very concerned about the ethical issues around … Continue reading If not vegan, then what?

Unknowns Swirl Around How Plastic Particles Impact the Climate

Top: Microplastics found washed up on a beach. About 11 percent of microplastics in the atmosphere over the western U.S. come from the ocean. Visual: Alistair Berg/DigitalVision via Getty Images Airborne microplastics can absorb or reflect sunlight and seed clouds. How might that change the planet’s trajectory? BY NICOLA JONES PLASTIC HAS BECOME an obvious pollutant over recent decades, choking turtles and seabirds, clogging up our landfills and waterways. But in just the past few years, a less obvious problem has emerged. Researchers are starting to get concerned about how tiny bits of plastic in the air, lofted into the skies from seafoam … Continue reading Unknowns Swirl Around How Plastic Particles Impact the Climate

Monsanto and the Struggle Over Scientific Consensus

Visual: Richard Hamilton Smith/Corbis Documentary via Getty Images In “Glyphosate and the Swirl,” Vincanne Adams explores the history and debate surrounding a potent herbicide. BY COLLEEN WOOD ALMOST 90 percent of scientists believe that genetically modified foods are entirely safe. Yet, just 37 percent of the general public think these foods are safe to eat. Why are so few on board with the scientific consensus? Are they just anti-science? In “Glyphosate and the Swirl: An Agroindustrial Chemical on the Move,” medical anthropologist Vincanne Adams deciphers competing claims about the history and epidemiological impact of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, the powerful herbicide … Continue reading Monsanto and the Struggle Over Scientific Consensus

There’s no planet B

Scientific researchers on a bat-collecting expedition in Sierra Leone. Photo by Simon Townley/Panos The scientific evidence is clear: the only celestial body that can support us is the one we evolved with. Here’s why Arwen E Nicholson is a research fellow in physics and astronomy at the University of Exeter in the UK. She has developed Gaian models of regulation to understand how life might impact the long-term habitability prospects of its planet. Raphaëlle D Haywood is a senior lecturer in physics and astronomy at the University of Exeter in the UK. Her research focuses on detection of small, potentially terrestrial … Continue reading There’s no planet B

The golden fuel

On the outskirts of Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province in southwestern China, 6 November 2006. Photo by stringer/Reuters Asia’s rise to economic power and food security has been powered not by rice but by American maize, the ultimate flex-crop By Peter A Coclanis, is the Albert R Newsome Distinguished Professor of History and director of the Global Research Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a co-author of Plantation Kingdom: The American South and Its Global Commodities (2016) and the co-editor of Water and Power: Environmental Governance and Strategies for Sustainability in the Lower Mekong Basin (2019). Maize is … Continue reading The golden fuel

Is winter as miserable for animals as it is for us?

If dogs are out in coats and boots, how are the squirrels feeling? by Bridget B. Baker While the weather outside may indeed get frightful this winter, a parka, knit hat, wool socks, insulated boots and maybe a roaring fire make things bearable for people who live in cold climates. But what about all the wildlife out there? Won’t they be freezing? Anyone who’s walked their dog when temperatures are frigid knows that canines will shiver and favor a cold paw – which partly explains the boom in the pet clothing industry. But chipmunks and cardinals don’t get fashionable coats or booties.  In … Continue reading Is winter as miserable for animals as it is for us?