The Trillion-Dollar Auction to Save the World

ILLUSTRATIONS: ISRAEL G. VARGAS By GREGORY BARBER Ocean creatures soak up huge amounts of humanity’s carbon mess. Should we value them like financial assets? YOU ARE SEATED in an auction room at Christie’s, where all evening you have watched people in suits put prices on priceless wonders. A parade of Dutch oils and Ming vases has gone to financiers and shipping magnates and oil funds. You have made a few unsuccessful bids, but the market is obscene, and you are getting bored. You consider calling it an early night and setting down the paddle. But then an item appears that causes … Continue reading The Trillion-Dollar Auction to Save the World

From Biosphere To Technosphere

Jonathan Zawada for Noema Magazine Technology emerges from the lineage of life on Earth. BY NATHAN GARDELS It takes the expansive perspective of an astrobiologist and theoretical physicist who ponders the origins and unfolding of the universe to place today’s parochial debates over intelligent technology in the context of planetary evolution. In Noema, Sara Walker bends the modern mind to link the coming future to the primordial past. “The technologies we are and that we produce are part of the same ancient strand of information propagating through and structuring matter on our planet,” she writes. “This structure of information across time emerged with … Continue reading From Biosphere To Technosphere

The ethics of human extinction

Photo by Jackie Dives Why would it be so bad if our species came to an end? It is a question that reveals our latent values and hidden fears Émile P Torres is a PhD candidate in philosophy at Leibniz Universität Hannover in Germany. Their writing has appeared in Philosophy Now, Nautilus, Motherboard and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, among others. They are the author of The End: What Science and Religion Tell Us About the Apocalypse (2016), Morality, Foresight, and Human Flourishing: An Introduction to Existential Risks (2017) and Human Extinction: A History of the Science and Ethics of Annihilation (forthcoming from Routledge). It’s an ominous sign … Continue reading The ethics of human extinction

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

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

Americans are among the most loving, Chinese and Germans the least

A new study of global love finds that Americans have some of the most loving relationships, while Chinese and Germans have some of the least. KEY TAKEAWAYS by Ross Pomeroy An international team of nearly 100 scientists has conducted one of the largest studies on love of all time. Their work is published in the journal Scientific Reports. Psychologist Piotr Sorokowski based out of the University of Wrocław in Poland is first author of the Herculean (or perhaps more Shakespearean) scientific effort. He and numerous colleagues from dozens of countries joined together to survey 9,474 individuals over 18 years old in romantic relationships spread across 45 countries … Continue reading Americans are among the most loving, Chinese and Germans the least

Why it matters that humans and nature are growing apart

Our relationship with nature is changing. UNSPLASH Our relationship with the great outdoors isn’t quite the same as it was a few decades ago. BY ZAYNA SYED Are people less connected to nature today than previous generations? And does a disconnect from nature influence how much we care about climate change, biodiversity loss, and other environmental issues?  These are questions at the heart of a new study from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research and the Theoretical and Experimental Ecology Station in France. Scientists reviewed existing studies that examine humans’ relationship with nature, and found that, overall, we have been interacting less with … Continue reading Why it matters that humans and nature are growing apart