Five #greenreads to enjoy while sending samples of your family's feces to the lab.
Michael Pollan in the New York Times Magazine on our inner jungle: Much of the wild world needs conserving, but one wilderness that has escaped most of our attention (perhaps purposefully) is the one within us. Entire ecosystems live within our gut, on our skin, and in our mouths, noses, eyes, and colons. And we have a lot to learn about them. After getting lab results back on his own microbiota, Pollan takes a closer look at himself and dives into an emerging scientific field that's trying to unpack what a healthy set of microbial stowaways look like -- and how to get one. “The world is covered in a fine patina of feces,” says one microbiologist. But that doesn't mean we should cover our bodies, homes, and foods with antibacterial products. Our microbial loads may boost immunity, regulate obesity, and ease digestion and anxiety. "It turns out that we are only 10 percent human," writes Pollan. "For every human cell that is intrinsic to our body, there are about 10 resident microbes." Indiscriminately killing them off would be like killing a piece of ourselves.
Jon Mooallem at The Atlantic on the cold polar war: Mooallem heads to Fort Churchill, Manitoba, a military outpost during the Cold War that is now on the frontlines of another battle: the fight against climate change. The self-proclaimed "Polar Bear Capital of the World" is enlisting tourists and celebrities to tell the story of the bear's struggle against a melting Arctic -- a story that foretells the troubles that species at every latitude could soon face. But making a bear into rallying cry for climate action isn't easy: the animals don't always cooperate and like anything receiving too much media attention, the public can become fatigued by the underlying message, no matter how important. Mooallem's tour bus even gets distracted from the big, white bears when another media darling rolls into view. "Something that I'd kind of suspected for hours was suddenly obvious: we were chasing Martha Stewart across the tundra." Martha and her crew, of course, were after the bears.
Tom Vanderbilt at OnEarth on cycles of change: New York’s bike-share program, set to launch later this month, has provoked a typical, New-York-style backlash: handwringing, lawsuits, cries of elitism, and a few laments over the pace of change. Great! "No revolution is deserving of the label if it doesn't provoke resistance from a threatened establishment," writes Vanderbilt. Metropolitan-styled NIMBYism, he explains, is a sign that the bike-share program is already taken as fait accompli by the citizenry. As for the two-wheelers winning over the hearts and minds of New Yorkers, Vanderbilt is sure bike-share love is just a little further down the road.
Steven Hsieh for Rolling Stone on St. Louis’ stink bomb: Residents of Bridgeton, Missouri, say their town "smells like dead bodies" and "rotten eggs mixed with skunk and fertilizer." But their noses aren't the only things burning. A subterranean landfill fire has been raging beneath the local landfill and giving off a rancid scent for months. The town's concerns, however, run deeper than unpleasant odors. The West Lake landfill is a Superfund site holding nuclear waste used during the Manhattan Project. "No one knows for sure what happens when an underground inferno meets a pool of atomic waste,” Hsieh writes, “but residents aren't eager to find out.” We don't blame them.
Henry Nicholls in Nature on island life: The Galapagos have a rat problem. Rodents, brought to the islands by ships hundreds of years ago, have been gobbling up some of the very same finches and tortoises that helped Charles Darwin piece together his evolutionary theory. Now, pellets of rodenticide rain down from helicopters to rid the archipelago of its invaders (Ecuador already eradicated invasive goats and pigs from much of the region). Mass poisonings, however, are a tricky business, and scientists have had to make sure the project hits its target and not the species it's trying to save (or the people living nearby). And with 180,000 visitors to this remote natural laboratory each year, the potential for a rat reinvasion is high. Even so, the conservationists are pushing on, with the dream of returning the Galapagos to their full biological splendor.
Tired of reading yet? Watch this:
Tim Friend for Al Jazeera on the race to the North: A new shipping route -- opened up by sea-ice loss -- is bringing Asian business interests to the Arctic in search of rare earth minerals, fossil fuels, and shorter trips.
OnEarth is published by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The opinions expressed by its editors and writers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more.