By Claire Hope CummingsThe flooding of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault comes as a warning. Although the seeds are safe for now, this close call should caution us not to assume we can control and predict the natural world. Climate change, natural disasters, and social unrest are ever-present threats to seeds. The best response is to take action on two fronts: globally, as the Svalbard Seed Vault is doing; and regionally, by supporting traditional plant breeding on farms and by local seed banks, as well as conserving natural areas that protect plants.
By Marc Bekoff and Jessica PierceThe number of animals kept captive as pets is mind-boggling. In US households alone, there are an estimated seventy-eight million dogs, eighty-six million cats, ninety-six million freshwater fishes, nine million reptiles, and twelve million small animals. These numbers have been steadily growing for the past four decades. Even in the economic downturn, the pet industry was one of the few that showed continued growth. Unlike farming and laboratory research and especially zoos, where good welfare for animals lines up with productivity and quality, the same is not true within the pet industry.
The critical role that scientific research plays in our health, safety, understanding of the natural world, and future as a species is under threat. With an administration that is pushing to suppress scientific evidence and keep scientists from communicating their findings, our need for empirical inquiry into how to protect our home and sustain our resources is more important than ever. That’s why the March for Science, an emerging and growing grassroots movement, is launching nationwide tomorrow, April 22. Scientists and science supporters, teachers and parents, global citizens and policymakers will take to the streets, united, to defend and advocate for science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity.
By Wen StephensonSome of you have heard me say this before. I’ve said it many times, and I’m going to keep on saying it, because it’s true: Given what scientists know, and have known for decades, about climate change—indeed, given what Exxon Mobil has known for decades about climate change—to deny the science, deceive the public, and obstruct any serious response to the climate catastrophe, is to ensure the destruction, the eradication, of entire countries and cultures; and the suffering and death of untold millions of human beings. There’s a word for this. These are crimes. And they’re not just financial crimes. They’re not just crimes against shareholders. They’re crimes against humanity.
By Dina Gilio-WhitakerThe resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline taking place at Standing Rock right now is the most significant political event in Indian country since those struggles of the early 1970s, and there was no way I was going to miss it. I managed to carve out a few days and take a side trip to Standing Rock during Thanksgiving weekend, with a story assignment in my role as a journalist at Indian Country Today Media Network. I was there to bear witness to what is an unprecedented historical moment.
The results of the 2016 presidential election have left many people in shock and disappointment. In a time where people are fearing that a new administration will work to reverse much of the progress made in the last eight years, we are left wondering what the future holds. How do we continue to fight against climate change, fight for reproductive rights, LGBTQ protections, and racial and economic justice?
Throughout this election cycle, we’ve seen the rise of the radical right reminiscent of the pull of ultraconservative organizations from the past; increasing calls to prevent new immigrants from entering our country; increased calls to improve gun control legislation; a resurging wave of religious intolerance against Muslim Americans; and nationwide protests imploring racial justice and economic progress. These issues and others that have made headlines in the news have become focal points in this year’s presidential debates. To help inform the conversation about these topics, we’re recommending a list of titles from our catalogue.
By Stephen KendrickAutumn: New England’s residing glory, what people from all over the world come to see. Maybe we are used to it, or simply through familiarity do not realize our trees produce the greatest profusion of fall color in the world—but there it is. Nowhere else in the world are concentrated such orange-tinged russets, golds, and vivid reds. Our trees do us proud. There is only a short time to see all this; “leaf-peepers” are simply seekers of something rare and ephemeral. Mount Auburn, although a small player within these thousands of miles of burning fall tints, asserts itself every year as one of the special sites in the midst of nature’s color show.
By Marc BekoffI am always incredulous that the AWA does not consider rats of the genus Rattus and mice of the genus Mus to be animals. Other animals also are conveniently tossed out of the animal kingdom. When I tell people this they are shocked. We know from detailed scientific research that they have highly evolved cognitive and emotional capacities, they experience empathy, and rats laugh and like to be tickled. And, we know that tickling laboratory rats is good for science. What more do we need to show that these are sentient beings with rich and deep emotional lives?
By Roxanne Dunbar-OrtizThe first international relationship between the Sioux Nation and the US government was established in 1805 with a treaty of peace and friendship two years after the United States acquired the Louisiana Territory, which included the Sioux Nation among many other Indigenous nations. Other such treaties followed in 1815 and 1825. These peace treaties had no immediate effect on Sioux political autonomy or territory. By 1834, competition in the fur trade, with the market dominated by the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, led the Oglala Sioux to move away from the Upper Missouri to the Upper Platte near Fort Laramie. By 1846, seven thousand Sioux had moved south. Thomas Fitzpatrick, the Indian agent in 1846, recommended that the United States purchase land to establish a fort, which became Fort Laramie. “My opinion,” Fitzpatrick wrote, “is that a post at, or in the vicinity of Laramie is much wanted, it would be nearly in the center of the buffalo range, where all the formidable Indian tribes are fast approaching, and near where there will eventually be a struggle for the ascendancy [in the fur trade].”
By Marc BekoffA number of people have asked me to weigh in on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recent announcement that they would like to lift the ban on research on animal-human chimera research. Basically, a chimera “is a single organism composed of cells from different zygotes. This can result in male and female organs, two blood types, or subtle variations in form.” I’m against this sort of research for any number of reasons.
By Lynn HallThe wilderness is where I continuously re-establish my present-day safety. Here I reduce my survival to basics: Have I had enough to eat? Where will I find more water? Can I stay warm enough or cool enough? Even in these untamed places—with bears and snakes, lightning, cliffs and exposed ledges—I prove again and again that I am no longer the girl of my past. I reconnect with my most true self who has grown into her strength and confidence. I know my past is behind me.
By Bill McKibbenThoreau posed the two practical questions that must come dominate this age if we’re to make those changes: How much is enough? and How do I know what I want? For him, I repeat, those were not environmental questions; they were not even practical questions, exactly. If you could answer them you might improve your own life, but that was the extent of his concern. He could not guess about the greenhouse gas effect. Instead, he was the American avatar in a long line that stretches back at least to Buddha, the line that runs straight through Jesus and St. Francis and a hundred other cranks and gurus.
By J. A. MillsCall it superpower leadership, sibling rivalry, or rising to the occasion. Whatever the label, the presidents of China and the United States have joined forces to literally save the world. This is how the world achieved game-change on climate change: U.S. President Barack Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping spoke one-on-one about concerns over human-caused greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions speed-warming the planet. The U.S. acknowledged that it, too, has a problem with GHG emissions. Then the world’s number one and number two GHG emitters—China and the U.S. respectively—jointly pledged to limit their climate impacts and lead the world to do the same.
By Wen StephensonOn Wednesday morning in Boston’s West Roxbury neighborhood, an interfaith group of sixteen Boston-area religious leaders—Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu—sat down and held a prayer service in the middle of Grove Street, physically blocking construction of Spectra Energy’s fracked-gas West Roxbury Lateral pipeline, part of a major expansion of its Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline system. All told, their civil disobedience brought the number of arrests for nonviolent direct action along the construction route to more than eighty since October (including my own on April 28).
By Stefan Bechtel“In March, 1886, I received a severe shock, as if by a blow on the head with a well-placed mallet. I awoke, dazed and stunned, to a sudden realization of the fact that the buffalo hide-hunters of the United States had practically finished their work.” The writer was William Temple Hornaday, then a thirty-two-year-old taxidermist at the U.S. National Museum (later the Smithsonian). He’d been asked by his boss to put together a mounted display of the museum’s collection of Bison americanus, only to discover that “the people’s official museum was absolutely destitute of good bison specimens of any kind.” These great shambling creatures, with their magnificent prehistoric silhouettes, in their unimaginable numbers, symbolized the wildness and grandeur of America better than any other animal, perhaps even the bald eagle.
By Stephen KendrickFounded in 1831, Mount Auburn Cemetery is one of the Boston area’s most famous attractions. This urban wildlife habitat and nationally recognized hotspot for migratory birds continues to connect visitors with nature and serves as a model for sustainable landscape practices and conservation. Author and Unitarian minister Stephen Kendrick takes us on a tour of the cemetery in his latest book The Lively Place: Mount Auburn, America’s First Garden Cemetery, and Its Revolutionary and Literary Residents, which was released earlier this month. In honor of Earth Day and its theme this year of Trees for the Earth, we’re sharing this excerpt in which Kendrick writes about how he learned to appreciate the cemetery’s trees as social creatures putting together a complex environment.
By Marilyn SewellMy husband and I went on a long-planned trip to lovely Charleston, South Carolina, last October—as it turned out, just as the city’s most recent flood was subsiding. The local paper (The Post and Courier) reported one of highest tides on record, swamping cars, creeping into homes, and tangling traffic. Hundreds of people who live near the edge of the water in this tourist area couldn’t get to work. I chatted with the wait staff in restaurants as I sought out the shrimp po-boys, the collard greens, the fried chicken I love: Are you concerned about global warming? Typically, the answer was “No, flooding is a regular occurrence, we are used to it.”
A Q&A with Jay WexlerIn Mumbai, Hindus carry twenty-foot-tall plaster of Paris idols of the elephant god Ganesh into the sea and leave them on the ocean floor to symbolize the impermanence of life, further polluting the scarce water resources of western India. In Hong Kong and Singapore, Taoists burn paper money to appease “hungry ghosts,” filling the air with smoke and dangerous toxins. These are some of the instances of religious practice colliding with environmentalism that humorist and law professor Jay Wexler investigated for his new book that came out this month, When God Isn’t Green. Over two years, he made a round-the-world trip to understand the complexity of these problems and learn how society can best address them. We caught up with Wexler to ask him about his journey and how we can work toward ecofriendly rituals.
By Fred PearceThe World Health Organization has estimated that El Niño-related weather across the globe is putting sixty million people at increased risk of malnutrition. On track to being the strongest event since 1997-98, El Niño has caused droughts in countries such as India and South Africa that have staggered farming considerably. How will we manage to feed the world when the effects of climate change continue to encroach on our food sources? In this excerpt from The Land Grabbers: The New Fight over Who Owns the Earth, environmental journalist Fred Pearce argues that small-scale farming, not agribusiness, is the better solution to combat the food crisis.