Five greenreads to read over baguettes and brie and champagne this Bastille Day.
William Broad in the New York Times on the 49ers of the deep:There’s a new gold rush going on, but it's not taking place in mines or mountains. It’s happening on the sea floor. The discovery of huge deposits of copper, silver, and gold underwater has countries and companies scrambling to stake their claim. The ore, contained in what are known as massive sulfides, may be worth trillions of dollars -- a high value that reflects dwindling resources on land. But this scramble, described by one observer as “the last redivision of the world,” has scientists worried about the environmental implications. Alongside the massive sulfides, marine explorers continue to discover new -- and often fragile -- species, whose existence may be compromised by mining the abyss.
Richard Manning at OnEarth on how the West was lost:Amidst this summer’s wild blazes and searing droughts Manning writes, “we have not arrived at global warming; we have only begun.” From his home in Missoula, Montana, a spot designated by nature and happenstance as a strategic center for controlling the West’s conflagrations, Manning has a front seat to the chaos of a changing climate. The fire-fighting aircraft -- long the local emblem of forest preservation and human triumph -- have become images of fultility. "Once [the planes] and the equally storied smokejumpers and the thousands on thousands of ground troops -- grimy young people in yellow shirts, green pants, and hard hats -- were sufficient to control fire. Young people and aircraft have not changed; the fires have.”
Rebecca Solnit in Orion magazine on the urban farming revolution: Toward the end of World War II, Churchill stated that the normal occupations of man are war and gardening. Today, looking to the dramatic rise of city-bound agriculture, Solnit asks: are the two opposites? While some agricultural activities, like clear cutting and labor exploitation, look very much like war, gardening represents peace. “Can it be the antithesis of war, or a cure for social ills, or an act of healing the divisions of the world? When you tend your tomatoes, are you producing more than tomatoes? How much more? Is peace a crop, or justice?” The new green revolution, sprouting across abandoned lots and rooftops, is bringing more than vegetables to American cities, its “staking out the possibility of a better and different way of living, working, eating, and relating to the world.”
Julie Deardorff of the Chicago Tribune on nanotech as promise and peril:Nanotechnology, a process of shrinking and radically altering the structure of chemical compounds, has steadily crept into the consumer marketplace. From sunscreens to sports equipment, these tiny engineered particles can strengthen objects, make liquids more transparent, and even reduce the odor of smelly socks. But commercial developers are creating new nanotech materials at a rate that outpaces what we currently know about the products' safety. “The unusual properties that make nanoscale materials attractive may also pose unexpected risks to human health and the environment.” Scientists don’t yet understand how nanoparticles behave in the human body, but animal studies offer evidence for prudence, as research shows that the particles can cross the blood-brain barrier and impact the respiratory and immune systems.
Ted Genoways at OnEarth on Big Oil's “culture of deviance:"Authorities investigating the 2010 pipeline rupture that spilled over a million gallons of tar sands crude into the Kalamazoo River system blamed the disaster on Enbridge's “culture of deviance” -- a term first coined to describe conditions at NASA preceding the Challenger explosion. In addition to ignoring evidence of pipeline corrosion for five years, engineers were apparently so accustomed to false safety alarms, that when the bells tolled crisis, they merely shrugged their shoulders. The pipeline gushed for another 17 hours. Digging deeper into his ongoing investigation for OnEarth, Genoways takes a hard look at the adequacy of oil industry safety measures in the context of tar sands crude, and asks: "What steps must be taken to improve regulatory oversight and prevent more spills as the nation’s complex of pipelines continues to grow?” He suggests Enbridge was not only indifferent to the persistent clang of alarms, but also to human and environmental health.