Cities that grow themselves

They are spreading like branching plants across the globe. Should we rein cities in or embrace their biomorphic potential? Josh Berson is an anthropologist and the author, among other things, of The Human Scaffold: How Not to Design Your Way Out of a Climate Crisis (2021) and The Meat Question: Animals, Humans, and the Deep History of Food (2019). Edited by Sam Haselby In 1996, one in three inhabitants of China lived in an urban setting. In 2021, the figure was close to two in three. In the United States, in comparison, the figure is four in five. The construction boom in China tracks … Continue reading Cities that grow themselves

Heritage at sea

Must we simply accept the loss of beloved buildings and cities to the floods and rising seas of the climate crisis? Thijs Weststeijn is professor in the Department of History and Art History at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, where he chairs the research project ‘Histories of Global Netherlandish Art, 1550-1750’. His latest book is Foreign Devils and Philosophers: Cultural Encounters between the Chinese, the Dutch, and Other Europeans, 1590-1800 (2020). Edited byMarina Benjamin As an Amsterdam-born art historian, for the past three decades I’ve enjoyed guiding students and other visitors along the concentric canals that cup the city’s 17th-century historic centre … Continue reading Heritage at sea


Dr. Tim Coles, New Dawn Waking Times Scientists, politicians, media, and health professionals note that Western countries face obesity and fatness epidemics. Large numbers of poor, malnourished children are obese because the cheap, processed, low-nutrient food bought by their parents – bread, cereals, snacks, etc. – contains high concentrations of sugars. In addition to the systemic factors explored below, there are darker, more secretive reasons for our addiction to what the late philosopher-comedian George Carlin called “slow death by fast food.” But it is not just fast food. To save money on raw materials, sell innovation to other companies, and hook … Continue reading OBESITY MACHINE: HOW THE PROCESSED FOOD INDUSTRY PROFITS FROM EATING DISORDERS

Against longtermism

It started as a fringe philosophical theory about humanity’s future. It’s now richly funded and increasingly dangerous Phil Torres is a PhD candidate in philosophy at Leibniz Universität Hannover in Germany. His writing has appeared in Philosophy Now, Nautilus, Motherboard and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, among others. He is the author of The End: What Science and Religion Tell Us About the Apocalypse (2016), Morality, Foresight, and Human Flourishing… Edited bySam Dresser There seems to be a growing recognition that humanity might be approaching the ‘end times’. Dire predictions of catastrophe clutter the news. Social media videos of hellish wildfires, devastating floods and hospitals … Continue reading Against longtermism

Climate Change Has Exposed the Decline of the American Empire

Responding to the climate crisis has become a race against time, and our government still dawdles at the starting line. By William deBuys Thirteen thousand feet high on the far side of the Himalaya mountains, we have entered the past and the future at the same time. We are a medical expedition and also a pilgrimage, consisting of doctors, nurses, Buddhist clerics, supernumeraries like me, and a large staff of guides, muleteers, and camp tenders. We are bound for the isolated villages of Upper Dolpo, a remote region of northwestern Nepal, land of the snow leopard—both the actual animal and the eponymous … Continue reading Climate Change Has Exposed the Decline of the American Empire

How privacy became a forgotten virtue

Dave Eggers book, “The Circle,” uses satire to illuminate how privacy is fast becoming a lost virtue in the digital age. by Jonny Thomson KEY TAKEAWAYS In Dave Eggers’ book, “The Circle,” we are told to imagine a world where “secrets are lies, sharing is caring, and privacy is theft.”  We live in a world where sharing our most intimate moments, as well as our day to day banality, is the norm. Openness is a virtue while privacy is on the decline.  But privacy is essential to who we are as human beings. It’s a virtue we need to bring … Continue reading How privacy became a forgotten virtue

The unknown linguistic laws that apply to all life

Linguistic laws are remarkably versatile and have applications in ecology, microbiology, epidemiology, demographics, and geography. KEY TAKEAWAYS There are various laws of linguistics, such as common words being shorter than less common words.  These laws apply not only to human language but communication among animals, as well.  Most amazing, though, is that these rules appear just about everywhere, from species distribution and size to disease outbreaks to the structure of proteins. by Jonny Thomson Linguists have known for quite some time that certain “laws” seem to govern human speech. For instance, across languages, shorter words tend to be more frequently … Continue reading The unknown linguistic laws that apply to all life

Spotify Has Made All Music Into Background Music

Is the collapse of genre boundaries and the erosion of fervent musical loyalties a good thing? By Jack Hamilton Ispent much of my youth in sprawling record stores, drifting through aisles marked by signs that said things like rock, r&b, hip-hop, and—it was the ’90s—alternative. Anyone who grew up in or near a city in the later decades of the 20th century probably remembers the dial locations of classic rock, country, modern rock, “urban.” (Of course, there were also the catchall behemoths of Top 40 and adult contemporary; young snobs like me looked down on them as the presets of dilettantes.) But these days, to … Continue reading Spotify Has Made All Music Into Background Music

Apocalypse, please

The COVID-19 pandemic, like other catastrophes before it, got some of us hooked on phobic energy and terror. Why? by Travis Alexander is a postdoctoral fellow in the Medical Humanities Program at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Edited byPam Weintraub To read the news in the spring of 2021 was to encounter every day a deluge of columns, editorials and think-pieces – so many think-pieces – on the diverse psychological traumas unique to our liminal moment, our transition out of quarantine, our return to something pundits insist on calling ‘normal’. We read, for instance, about the stresses of returning to … Continue reading Apocalypse, please

Social physics: Are we at a tipping point in world history?

Does history have a grand narrative, or is it just a random walk to no place in particular? And is the world as we know it about to change? by Adam Frank  This moment in history feels different, as if we really are on the cusp of something epoch-making for good or ill. Does that mean we’re at a tipping point? If we are, then we can ask two questions: (1) Does history have a grand narrative? (2) Is there an arc to history? Social physics, which is a branch of complex system theory, can help answer these questions. This … Continue reading Social physics: Are we at a tipping point in world history?