The Waste Age

Recognising that waste is central, not peripheral, to everything we design, make and do is key to transforming the future Justin McGuirk is the chief curator at the Design Museum in London. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Guardian and e-flux, among many others. He is the author of Radical Cities: Across Latin America in Search of a New Architecture (2014). The opposition between ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ is problematic for many reasons, but there’s one that we rarely discuss. The ‘nature vs culture’ dualism leaves out an entire domain that properly belongs to neither: the world of waste. The mountains of waste … Continue reading The Waste Age

Ask Ethan: How long until our calendar needs replacing?

KEY TAKEAWAYS Every year, Earth’s rotational period changes slightly, and over long enough times, so will the number of days in a year.  Even with everything we’ve done to accurately compute those changes, our modern calendar will only last a few millennia more before further changes are needed.  Eventually, leap years will go away entirely, and then we’ll start needing to remove days. In time, even total solar eclipses will cease. Even with leap years and long-term planning, our calendar won’t be good forever. Here’s why, and how to fix it. by Ethan Siegel With every year that passes, we … Continue reading Ask Ethan: How long until our calendar needs replacing?

The Amazon, a Counterweight to Global Warming, Is Under Assault

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has escalated deforestation to dire proportions. Activists accuse him of “ecocide.” BY GEORGINA GUSTIN JAIM TEIXEIRA SURVEYS his property near Trairão, Brazil from the back of a motorcycle, wearing jeans and a long-sleeved, sun-proof shirt to shield him from the jungle’s breathtaking heat. It’s the end of the dry season and, like everything and everyone in this part of the Amazon, the lean, 51-year-old rancher is covered in a fine brick-red dust. Nearby, a plume of smoke rises at the edge of the jungle canopy, heading skyward until it blurs into an indistinct haze. Burning trees crackle and spit. … Continue reading The Amazon, a Counterweight to Global Warming, Is Under Assault

Reweaving the wild

Human roads have utterly fragmented the world of wild animals but the engineering to reconnect the pieces is in our grasp Darryl Jones is professor emeritus of ecology at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia. His books include The Birds at My Table: Why We Feed Wild Birds and Why It Matters (2018) and A Clouded Leopard in the Middle of the Road New Thinking about Roads, People, and Wildlife (forthcoming in 2022). He lives in Brisbane. It is almost certain that you recently interacted closely with an invisible giant, as the Harvard landscape ecologist Richard T T Forman has described it. Others have called roads ‘the … Continue reading Reweaving the wild

All the Biomass on Earth

Our planet supports 8.7 million species. Here’s how they break down. BY IMAN GHOSH ILLUSTRATION BY MARK BELAN All the Biomass of Earth, in One Graphic Our planet supports approximately 8.7 million species, of which over a quarter live in water. But humans can have a hard time comprehending numbers this big, so it can be difficult to really appreciate the breadth of this incredible diversity of life on Earth. To fully grasp this scale, we draw from research from “The biomass distribution on Earth,” by Yinon M. Bar-On, Rob Phillips, and Ron Milo to break down the total composition of the living world, in … Continue reading All the Biomass on Earth

The Power of the Waves

Understanding how oceans move is key to understanding life on Earth. BY RICHARD HAMBLYN Sea waves are among the world’s most misunderstood phenomena. When an incoming wave breaks on the shoreline, it appears as though the water has come to the end of a long journey, but in fact the water itself has hardly moved. Most surface sea waves transmit energy, not water, and the turbulence at the surf zone is the result of that moving energy encountering a solid obstruction—usually the shelving sea floor—against which it noisily dissipates. It is at that point that the wave transforms, from an … Continue reading The Power of the Waves

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

The posthuman dog

If humans were to disappear from the face of the Earth, what might dogs become? And would they be better off without us? by Jessica Pierce is a bioethicist and writer. She is a faculty affiliate with the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Her books include A Dog’s World (2021) and Unleashing Your Dog (2019), with Marc Bekoff, and Run, Spot, Run (2016). She also writes the blog All Dogs Go to Heaven for Psychology Today. She lives in Colorado. Edited by Pam Weintraub If you share your home with a dog, you may have found yourself rolling your eyes … Continue reading The posthuman dog

My 3 Greatest Revelations

The author on writing her new book, “The Other Dark Matter.” BY LINA ZELDOVICH TOLD TO KEVIN BERGER 1 We Are Smothering the Planet with Our Poop The next time you go grocery shopping, look at where your food comes from. Most of it isn’t local. Strawberries come from California or Florida, asparagus from Mexico or Chile, bananas from Brazil or Ecuador. Most of the food gets shipped to us, trucked, flown, helicoptered, or whatever. We eat it and excrete it—in the same place, over and over. And that’s a problem. Before humans settled and started farming, we were nomadic, … Continue reading My 3 Greatest Revelations

Beware the ‘Climate-Stupid Agriculture’ of Bill Gates and His Allies

Bill Gates is just plain wrong when he says the only way to grow food is with synthetic fertilizers. by TIMOTHY A. WISE As world leaders wrap up the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow, new scientific research shows that there is still a great deal of magical thinking about the contribution of fertilizer to global warming. Philanthropist Bill Gates fed the retreat from science in his book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster earlier this year. “To me fertilizer is magical,” he confesses, nitrogen fertilizer in particular. Under a photo of a beaming Gates in a Yara fertilizer distribution warehouse in Tanzania, he … Continue reading Beware the ‘Climate-Stupid Agriculture’ of Bill Gates and His Allies