Five chic #greenreads that will only be read at the most exclusive after-parties this Oscar Sunday.
Michael Moss in the New York Times Magazine on snack attacks: Is it really your fault you ate the whole box of oreos? Well, yes ... but you can't take all the blame. Snack food companies have been trying to get you addicted to their products for years, and have spent millions getting the job done. “What I found, over four years of research and reporting, was a conscious effort -- taking place in labs and marketing meetings and grocery-store aisles -- to get people hooked on foods that are convenient and inexpensive.” In this piece adapted from his upcoming book on junk food, Moss digs into the science of why we munch mindlessly on foods that we know aren't good for us (and then go back for thirds). Here’s a hint: salt, sugar, and fat.
Jackson Landers at Slate on Yankee gators: The gators are coming! The gators are coming! The American alligator is heading north, thanks to our old friend climate change and its milder winters. These cold-blooded creatures typically live in southern climes, with temperature requirements that keep them from going farther north than North Carolina. Yet a gator was killed just five miles from the Virginia border in 2011, and Landers has heard plenty of unofficial reports that they’ve crossed into the Old Dominion state. “Officially, there are no alligators in Virginia. But in practice, I don’t think the alligators have paid attention.” No one knows for sure if the gators will creep over the Mason-Dixon line, or how long it will take the reptiles to establish breeding populations. “So far, the current shift is modest by historical standards,” writes Landers. “But if the trend keeps going, then New York City had better keep an eye on its sewers.”
Matthew Power in OnEarth on saving the Chicago River: In 1900, Chicagoans remade their city’s namesake river -- a huge feat of engineering that reversed the Chicago River's flow. Then they let it go to hell. "I ask him if he ever eats fish from the river, and he just laughs," writes Power about an angler he meets on the river's banks. While access to fresh water and shipping routes helped make the windy city into a powerful one, its river is now one of its biggest problems. It's also the Mississippi's problem and Lake Michigan's problem. Untreated human waste overflows into the water after almost every heavy rain, and 110-pound invasive Asian carp threaten to infiltrate the Great Lake via the river. The peril the lakes’ ecosystem faces is so great that engineers are considering rerouting the Chicago to keep it separate from other waterways, ironically diverting the flow back to its pre-1900 course). After visiting with lawmakers, scientists, advocates (including many from NRDC, which publishes OnEarth), and locals who are working to fix the problem, Powers wonders: “Does it really require a crisis -- floods, pollution, an invasion of carp -- to make meaningful change happen?” For Chicago's sake, let's hope so.
Richard Conniff in Conservation on Big (Fish) Oil: If you’ve ever eaten foods boasting of healthy omega-3's, then you’ve probably eaten menhaden. These tiny, slippery little fish are the “soybeans of the sea” due to the rich, brain-boosting, heart-helping oil found within their bodies. Four hundred years ago, menhaden were so plentiful along the Atlantic seaboard that sailors in Captain John Smith’s crew tried to scoop them up with frying pans instead of nets. They'd have no such luck now. In fact, striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay have been literally starving to death for lack of menhaden. Annual hauls have dropped 80 percent since the 1950’s, and the fish oil industry is going bust from overfishing. (Sounds familiar...) Conniff introduces readers to Omega Protein, which is kind of like the BP of fish oil. The company processes 550 million menhaden a year into meal and oil, with the resulting goop ending up in products like butter-substitutes and cookies. If fish bits in cookies gross you out, Omega Protein’s ruthless fishing practices are sure to churn your stomach: The base of the entire Atlantic food chain could be at stake.
Juliet Eilperin in the Washington Post on a climate billionaire: Billionaire Thomas Steyer feels a little out of place when he chats about climate change with other billionaires. “I feel like the guy in the movie who goes into the diner and says, ‘There are zombies in the woods and they’re eating our children.’” But that hasn't stopped this investor-turned-activist from trying to ward off the evils of global warming, starting from inside Washington. Good luck, buddy. But Steyer uses his business savvy, political connections, and years of experience as a successful hedge fund manager to his advantage. Speaking at the anti-Keystone XL rally last Sunday, Steyer funneled the pipeline controversy down to what he knows best: “I’ve been a professional investor and I’ve been looking at billion-dollar investments for decades and I’m here to tell you one thing: The Keystone pipeline is not a good investment.” We couldn't agree more. Feeding dirty tar sands oil to that climate zombie is not a good idea.
Tired of reading yet? Watch this.
Nat Geo Wild on one hungry boa: We feel bad for you reptiles: that dry skin, those beady eyes, the inconvenience of cold blood, and the fact that one in five of your species is facing extinction. To top it off, some of you really have no table manners. We think this video will show you what we mean.
Tips: @OnEarthMag (tag it #greenreads) Image: Simon Q