Sign Up for Our Newsletter


Weekend Reads: Climate Change and Syria, Mysteries of the Big Melt, Extinction Isn't Forever?
Five #greenreads to round out all those fantasy football conversations.

“Is the CIA on Its Way to Hacking the Sky?”
Everybody get out your tinfoil hats, because geoengineering is on its way! There’s still a lot of research to be done, of course, but the National Academy of Sciences, the CIA, NASA, and NOAA are teaming up to see how we might go about controlling the weather to counterbalance the effects of climate change (see "Earth: Under Repair, Forever"). From sulfur-dioxide-firing artillery to fleets of aerosol-spraying airplanes, what was once science fiction may be closer to reality than you realize. And the stakes are, obviously, high. As Jason Mark writes, “Once we start messing with the sky, there will be no going back.” The American Prospect

“Back From the Dead”
In the eighties, the gastric brooding frog of Australia went extinct, largely the result of chytrid, a fungus spread by humans (see “Frog Fungus and the Pregnancy Test of Doom”). Now decades later, scientists are working feverishly to bring the species back from the dead. The genetic experiment raises a whole slew of ethical questions—many of which will sound eerily similar to scenes from a certain twenty-year-old movie about mosquito-borne dinosaurs. In other words, before we find out if scientists could make a species de-extinct, Jason Mark wonders whether we should. Earth Island Journal

“Something in the Air”
In 2005, there was a 25-square-mile cloud of lead hovering over the airport in Hillsboro, Oregon. And if you live near an airport, you’ve probably got one, too. Thanks to the airline industry being the last bastion of leaded fuel in the country, the powerful neurotoxin eventually falls from the sky to the ground, where we encounter it. Lead’s been linked to learning disabilities, stunted growth, hearing loss, violent behavior, kidney failure, cancer, miscarriages, and just about everything else you never want to experience. Michael Behar documents the fight to have it stricken from the skies. OnEarth

“Flying Low Over Greenland, IcePod Tracks Changes in the Ice Sheet”
How does ice melt? It seems like a simple question, except when you apply it to the planet’s poles. But Suzanne Goldenberg writes how one new tool may help us learn the secrets of polar ice. The IcePod is a suite of airborne radar and imaging systems strapped onto the wing of one of the U.S. Military’s Arctic aircraft. With this array of lasers and radar, we’re able to boldly measure the subterranean ebb and flow of ice like never before. Hopefully, the IcePod will enable us to better understand how global warming will affect Earth’s ice sheets. But big science starts small, says Robin Bell, the mission’s lead geophysicist. “If we could see 10 cm cracks I would be really jazzed.” Guardian

“How Climate Change Warmed Syria Up For War”
Civil wars happen for many reasons—power, economics, religion, distribution of resources. And while the current Syrian conflict has all of those components, there’s an argument to be made that climate change had the country primed for unrest. Touching on the Syria’s five-year drought and rising food prices, Brian Merchant shows how climate change isn’t some far-off fairytale. It’s happening right now, and it has blood on its hands. Motherboard

Tired of Reading Yet? Watch This:

Orangutan therapy: Hey, it's Friday. Tamper down the week’s stress with 4.5 minutes of Rickina, a baby orangutan at a sanctuary in Borneo. YouTube

Tips: @OnEarthMag (tag it #greenreads)
Image: Freedom House/Flickr

Like this article? Donate to NRDC to support OnEarth's groundbreaking nonprofit journalism.