Through this pandemic time, I’ve hosted more than 150 episodes of Sustain What, my webcast from Columbia’s Earth Institute exploring constructive paths when complexity and consequence collide. Few segments have been as bracing and, yes, fun as this one with the Anthropocene-focused writers Elizabeth Kolbert and Annalee Newitz on their new books, Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, and Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age.
I encourage you to save it for some quiet moment when you want to step back from the news flood and reflect on where humanity has been (Annalee’s…
I reported on the rise, triumphs, tribulations and troubles of Rajendra K. Pachauri, the longest-serving chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, from 2002 through 2015 for The New York Times. Click here to explore my coverage.
He died on Thursday at home in New Delhi at age 79.
The Washington Post has published a thorough obituary summarizing his achievements and the controversies that swirled around him late in life.
His family just sent me this statement:
Dr. Rajendra Kumar Pachauri (born 20 August 1940), who has been a leading voice on climate change and environment, passed away peacefully…
A friend and Earth Institute colleague, Brighton Kaoma, posted a Buddhist parable on Facebook that prompted me to think about the firefighters and citizen volunteers who’ve spent months trying to protect communities, and species, threatened by the massive wildfires in Australia.
In a thicket at the foot of the Himalayan mountains there once lived a parrot together with many other animals and birds. One day a fire started in the thicket from the friction of bamboos in a strong wind and the birds and animals were in frightened confusion.
The Parrot, feeling compassion for their fright and…
Seven years ago, my brain hinted to me that I might be having a stroke.
During a rare run in the woods with my super-fit elder son on a hot Fourth of July weekend in 2011, my brain — which I hardly ever think about — gave me a strong hint something was seriously wrong with the inputs it was receiving from my eyes.
My left eye was telling my brain the world was paisley. My right eye was, “meh.”
Thank you, brain.
If it hadn’t been for you, I wouldn’t have scarfed down half a dozen baby aspirin as…
This story of mine, about the rapid retreat of iconic glaciers that long defined life in the Swiss Alps, was originally published in Conde Nast Traveler in May, 1995, but is — of course — as relevant as ever.
In 1818, the farmers who ranged cattle on the steep mountainsides above Brig, a small town in southern Switzerland, organized a religious procession to deter a looming catastrophe. They marched from the church up a steep valley to the Aletsch, the largest glacier in the Alps. The 16-mile-long river of ice, 3,000 feet deep at its center, was fed by the…
I first got to know the self-described “independent scholar” Bob Kates when I was working on the special “Managing Planet Earth” issue of The New York Times Science Times section in 2002. He was in the opening section of my core story and he was the kicker, as well — a sure sign that his ideas captured my imagination and held up after a lot of reporting. Here’s that closing poassage:
A user-friendly, spin-free, bite-size guide to global warming drawing on three decades of reports from the National Academy of Sciences and other peer-reviewed science.
This is a summary of research pointing to a rising, long-lasting and consequential human influence on the climate system and resulting impacts on communities, resources and ecosystems, as well as science and scholarship on ways to respond.
This climate change guide is implicitly a snapshot of the state of science in relevant fields, drawing mainly on reports, through 2015, from the National Research Council of the National Academies, the leading scientific advisory body…
The Times has produced an excellent visual/story package on America’s aging dams, prompted by California’s close scrape as relentless rain from a series of atmospheric rivers strained the Oroville Dam and spillway.
Here’s one factoid:
By 2020, 70 percent of the dams in the United States will be more than 50 years old, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.
“It’s not like an expiration date for your milk, but the components that make up that dam do have a lifespan.” said Mark Ogden, a project manager with the Association of State Dam Safety Officials.
I’VE weighed in a lot in recent years on prospects for a creditable human path at this turbulent juncture on Earth, when our species’ surge has been so potent that it’s leaving a durable record in layered rock — prompting many Earth scientists to propose the dawn of a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene.
The notion that any path in this century could be good has been challenged by some environmental analysts, and Donald J. Trump’s disruptive ascent to the White House could be seen as tipping the balance toward darker outcomes.
When Elon Musk speaks, his spellbinding vision of an electrified planet with clean energy generation is always in the foreground.
Here, he casts progress in the broader context of the enduring need for oil (and natural gas). I’m posting this snippet of video because I’m thinking a lot these days about one of the “unusual suspects” in humanity’s intertwined climate and energy challenges — inertia.