Five #greenreads to be grateful for on your protracted Thanksgiving commute.
Roff Smith in National Geographic on cheetah supermoms: "Put a cheetah and a Lamborghini side by side on a freeway, and it will be an even-money bet which will smash the speed limit first," writes Smith of the great cat's impressive acceleration. Unfortunately, cheetahs cannot outpace our destruction of their habitat, our black market pet trades, and our bullets. The species that once roamed lands from the tip of India to the tip of Africa, has been running headlong into extinction for decades, with less than 10,000 of them left in the wild. One reason cheetah populations have been able to persist at all, scientists are discovering, is the amazing parental prowess of some quick and careful mothers. "I’m not aware of any other carnivore whose survival relies so heavily on the success of so few females,” says Sarah Durant, a researcher with the Zoological Society of London. Perhaps we could give the cat a helpful hand, so its future isn't so heavily weighted on the sleek shoulders of these she-cats.
Charles C. Mann in Orion on past success and future returns:Homo sapiens tend to think they’re pretty darn great, that we are the apple of evolution's eye, the cream in creation's coffee. But perhaps we wouldn’t take such comfort in that sentiment, if we faced this biological truth: “the fate of every successful species is to wipe itself out.” Comparing us to some of our least favorite insects, the louse and the fire ant, Mann traces humanity's story back to a population bottleneck 75,000 years ago. He's on a quest to figure out when our ancestors made the leap from merely looking like modern humans to acting like us, filling their lives with art, creativity, and clothing. But remember, naked or not, prosperous species never fail at sabotaging themselves. As our population grows and we deplete the resources we depend on, Mann wonders if our knack for innovation will save us. If not, "for all our speed and voraciousness, our changeable sparkle and flash," he writes, "we would be, at last count, not an especially interesting species."
Joe Fassler at OnEarth on the food lobby's taste for hypocrisy: Two huge campaigns involving how Americans eat caught our attention this fall. One fought a proposed ban on some big sugary drinks bought in New York City. The decision to supersize, it argued, was everyone's right. "No one tells [New Yorkers] what neighborhood to live in, what team to root for, or what deli to eat at,” says one ad pointed out by Fassler. The second food fight, which took place in California, opposed a ballot initiative that would require all products that contain genetically modified organisms to be labeled as such. In this case, consumers' right to know what they were buying and eating, and choose applicably, didn't matter. What's interesting, Fassler finds, is that the same folks were behind both vehement campaigns. It would seem that the only consumer choice these food companies truly stand behind is the freedom to buy more of whatever they choose to serve.
Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones on finishing what you start: In the run up to the election, environmental issues did a “disappearing act” from the national discussion. With the campaign on the line, Obama shied away from controversial subjects like climate change (politically not scientifically controversial, mind you). But with second terms come second chances. Sheppard gives a run down of eight environmental problems that have regulations in the works but lack finalization by the government. Here are a few that will hopefully appear on Obama's to-do list: Sap smog and soot? Sounds good. Classify flame retardants as toxic? Yup, get on that. Protect wetlands from pollution? Please do. Curb greenhouse gas emissions? C'mon already!
Tired of reading yet? Listen to and watch this:
Jacki Lyden for Talk of the Nation on betting the house on good weather: As Hurricane Sandy so brutally demonstrated, seaside communities often fall into climate change’s crosshairs. And every year or so, we watch neighborhoods stack sand bags to block an overflowing river during a seasonal flood. So why are we drawn to the water's edge? And is it worth the risk? This is what Lyden explores while speaking with numerous callers who live near the coasts, by the river, and on the lakeshore .... including one guest, a scientist studying flooding in New York City, who still chooses to live within the Hudson River's striking distance, and another guest who basically says we are all just fooling ourselves.