Growing up in an Evangelical Christian home, my disappointment in how my form of Christianity thought about and responded to environmental problems was inescapable. Biblical dominance over nature took precedence over reverence and respect. But there was one prominent voice within the evangelical movement who strongly disagreed. In 1970, Dr. Francis Schaeffer, an evangelical theologian and philosopher, penned the book, “Pollution and the Death of Man: the Christian view of ecology,” which is still available in reprinted version. It’s a short read, little more than a hundred pages and a couple of hours of reading. The other night I blew the dust off my original, dog-eared, margin-smudged version that I kept near my night-stand during my youth as I struggled with faith and fauna. Its content and message of why Christian stewardship of the environment matters are still very relevant today. Schaeffer wrote the book during a time of environmental awakening in the U.S., shortly after Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring but before the advent of federal environmental laws, such as the Clean Air and Water Acts. Continue reading
Author and ecologist, Daniel Botkin, in his new book, The Moon in the Nautilus Shell, offers an important perspective on humanity’s connectedness to nature. Using the fascinating ecology of the Nautilus, Botkin argues that we too are deeply connected to nature in ways beyond our own conciousness. When we lose touch with our surroundings, nature becomes but a mere abstraction bereft of relevance and meaning. According to Botkin, the only way to solve many of our environmental problems is through our understanding of our connection to nature, an important part of ourselves. Here is a four-minute video of the unique story of the Nautilus and Botkin’s sentiments.
Central to concerns of climate change science is the somewhat ill-defined concept of “tipping point,” a point at which a system is irreversibly propelled into a different state of equilibrium. What that means and what it looks like remain largely conjecture. An interesting op-ed in last year’s NYT titled Searching for Clues to Calamity explores the concept. The central question relative to climate change is at what atmospheric concentration does CO2 need to exist in order to force warming to such a point where, like a switch that is stuck in the “on” position, a domino effect will result in rapid glacial retreat, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, etc.. You get the gist. Assuming there is such a tipping point (and that may be a big assumption for some), and we were to reach such a point, the earth would be a very different place according to many scientists. Continue reading
Some good news for U.S. researchers and budding scientists. Results of a new survey released today in Nature reveal the United States’ continued world dominance in science.
The United States remains the superpower of science, dominating a ranking of the world’s top 200 institutions in 2012, published today in the first Nature Publishing Index (NPI) Global supplement. The UK, Germany and Japan make up a solid top four countries in terms of high quality science output. China is nipping at France’s heels for the number five slot. The NPI ranks countries and institutions according to their output of primary research articles in the 18 Nature research journals in 2012, and includes data from 2008-2011 for comparison. Continue reading
For you weekend warriors, before you go out and purchase “plastic wood” for that next deck project, you may want to think again if your motivation is being more sustainable. An article in this week’s Nature by Jeff Tollefson titled ‘Plastic wood’ is no green guarantee, reveals that carbon emissions from plastic-wood manufacturing are 45-330% higher than redwood production, based on a study by the Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials, a public-private partnership based at the University of Washington. Another article by Julia Pongratz, Plant a tree, but tend it well, reveals some potential limits of forests as carbon sinks from nutrient constraints. Continue reading
The following may be a wee bit granular for some of my readers, but hear me out, because this is a big deal in the context of improving national water quality. According to EPA, nearly 50 percent of the Nation’s water bodies, i.e., lakes, streams, rivers, still do not meet water quality standards due to impairments from pollution. One of the biggest offenders is excess nutrients as I’ve touched upon previously here (think harmful algal blooms). Thus, EPA has been applying significant pressure on the States to adopt numeric nutrient criteria (as opposed to qualitative criteria), which in theory should make it easier and more effective to regulate nutrient pollution. This has been a highly contentious issue, even going back to my time at EPA, as reflected in the recent Florida litigation. Continue reading
Environmental Defense Fund is taking heat from other environmental groups for promoting sustainable energy practices, as reported by Lenny Bernstein over at WaPo.
In an unusually public dispute, about 70 environmental groups Wednesday scolded one of their larger brethren, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), for joining with a group of energy companies that support hydraulic fracturing. Continue reading