A Messiah Won’t Save Us

The messianic idea that permeates Western political thinking — that a person or technology will deliver us from the tribulations of the present — distracts us from the hard work that must be done to build a better world. BY JONATHAN BLAKE “When the Messianic idea appears as a living force in the world … it always occurs in the closest connection with apocalypticism,” Gershom Scholem observed in 1959. Scholem could state this with authority. The greatest modern scholar of messianism in Judaism, he was immersed in the study of ancient and medieval religious thought and of the messianic movements to which it … Continue reading A Messiah Won’t Save Us

The Solace of Open Spaces

“There is nothing in nature that can’t be taken as a sign of both mortality and invigoration… Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are.” BY MARIA POPOVA We live amid and inside emblems of the touching longing for permanence that both defines us and defies reality: our houses, these haikus of brick and hope so easily discomposed by a tremor of the earth or a tempest of the sky; our homes, so easily hollowed by death or indifference; our bodies, these boarding houses for stardust. All along, as life keeps living itself through us, we keep casting … Continue reading The Solace of Open Spaces

The Antarctic paradox

The most protected place on Earth has become one of the most threatened – and threatening. Can its problems be solved? Alejandra Mancilla is professor of philosophy at the University of Oslo in Norway. Her main research interests are in political and environmental philosophy, and ethics. Her latest book is The Right of Necessity: Moral Cosmopolitanism and Global Poverty (2016). Peder Roberts is associate professor of modern history at the University of Stavanger in Norway and a researcher in the Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. He is the author of The European … Continue reading The Antarctic paradox

Against human exceptionalism

In a tight spot, you’d probably intuit that a human life outweighs an animal’s. There are good arguments why that’s wrong Jeff Sebo is clinical associate professor of environmental studies, affiliated professor of bioethics, medical ethics, philosophy and law, and director of the animal studies MA programme at New York University. He is also on the executive committee at the NYU Center for Environmental and Animal Protection and the advisory board for the Animals in Context series at NYU Press. He is co-author of Chimpanzee Rights (2018) and Food, Animals, and the Environment (2018), and the author of Saving Animals, Saving Ourselves (2022). This January, a … Continue reading Against human exceptionalism

Space Is an Ecosystem Like Any Other. And It’s in Peril.

Artificial satellites, thousands of which now clutter low Earth orbit, have essentially become an invasive species. BY THOMAS LEWTON OUTER SPACE isn’t what most people would think of as an ecosystem. Its barren and frigid void isn’t exactly akin to the verdant canopies of a rainforest or to the iridescent shoals that swim among coral cities. But if we are to become better stewards of the increasingly frenzied band of orbital space above our atmosphere, a shift to thinking of it as an ecosystem — as part of an interconnected system of living things interacting with their physical environment — may be … Continue reading Space Is an Ecosystem Like Any Other. And It’s in Peril.

The power of shit

Our excrement is a natural, renewable and sustainable resource – if only we can overcome our visceral disgust of it Lina Zeldovich is a journalist and author. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Scientific American and Undark, among others. She is the author of The Other Dark Matter: The Science and Business of Turning Waste into Wealth and Health (2021). She lives in New York City. Every fall when the grey sky over Kazan swelled with dark heavy clouds so full of water that the rain never stopped until it turned to snow, my grandfather prepped our small family farm for the … Continue reading The power of shit

Nature does not care

Too many nature writers descend into poetic self-absorption instead of the sharp-eyed realism the natural world deserves Richard Smyth writes features, reviews and comment pieces for publications including The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement and New Statesman, among others. He is also a crossword setter, a cartoonist and an author whose books include the novel The Woodcock (2021) and the history An Indifference of Birds (2020). Iworry, sometimes, that knowledge is falling out of fashion – that in the field in which I work, nature writing, the multitudinous nonfictions of the more-than-human world, facts have been devalued; knowing stuff is no longer enough. Marc Hamer, a British writer … Continue reading Nature does not care

The power of water

Far more potent than oil or gold, water is a stream of geopolitical force that runs deep, feeding crops and building nations Giulio Boccaletti is an author, entrepreneur and senior executive. He is co-founder of the tech startup Chloris Geospatial, an honorary research associate at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford, and the author of Water: A Biography (2021). He lives in London. Edited by Pam Weintraub Agreat river encircles the world. It rises in the heartland of the United States and carries more water than the Mississippi and Yangtze rivers combined. One branch, its … Continue reading The power of water

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?