Could New York City Subways Survive Another Hurricane?
In the days before Sandy hit, New York City transit carpenters worked around the clock to build an 8.5-foot dam of plywood to protect the subway system from what they suspected would be a wall of water. (They were right.) And when the storm surge came, the structure worked—by a margin of just-barely. This ragtag solution prevented the Harlem River from snaking through the tunnel system and causing catastrophic damage throughout the city. With the city’s annual flood damages expected to top $2 billion by 2050, it’s time to talk about next time. Though as Robert Sullivan explains, the plan may surprise you. New York Times Magazine
Saving the Great North Woods
In the next century, scientists predict climate change will cause Minnesota’s great forests to retreat north by as much as 300 miles. The remaining landscape will resemble the open savannas of Nebraska and Kansas, which means big woods species like lynx, owls, pine martens, and moose could be out of luck (see “What’s Killing Minnesota’s Moose?”). But Josephine Marcotty discusses how a group of scientists and volunteers are not taking grasslands for an answer. In an interesting, and controversial, experiment, they’re replanting white pines, fighting invasive night crawlers, and deciding which species to favor as the region’s climate warms. As forest ecologist Lee Frelich says, “We may have to interfere with nature to protect the wilderness.” Minneapolis Star Tribune
The Tequila Curse
Frozen margarita machines were once few and far between in this country. But America is in the middle of a tequila renaissance, and since 1995, sales of the spirit have nearly tripled. Unfortunately, increasing demand hasn’t benefitted everyone equally. Industrialized agave production creates monocultures vulnerable to fungal infections, water pollution, and alas, inferior tequila. The new agricultural methods even cut out pollination altogether—which in turn, has altered the migratory patterns of bats that pollinate other crops. Small-scale, subsistence farmers now have no choice but to grow agave. Through the story of the Sauzas, a family who's been distilling tequila since 1903, Ted Genoways illustrates how the desert has shifted along with the industry’s boom and bust. Bloomberg Businessweek
Before Hurricane Sandy, “dune” was a four-letter-word to folks on beachfront property in New Jersey. Those big, sandy piles obstruct ocean views and, well, what good are they anyway? But now, as we approach the one-year anniversary of the area’s largest drubbing, seaside towns are singing a different tune about dunes. David Gessner writes how a few geologists convinced the public that these mounds of sand and grass were more life-saver than eyesore. But are they enough? OnEarth
The Grassroots Battle Against Big Oil
For all the articles and petitions, let's not forget that there are people on the ground fighting a battle for climate justice. Many of them are even in Texas—gasp!—blocking construction on the final leg of the Keystone XL pipeline by sitting in trees and locking themselves to bulldozers. One group, which calls itself the Tar Sands Blockade, draws heavy inspiration from the Civil Rights movement and seeks to include those who often bear the brunt of environmental issues, namely minorities and the poor (see "Port Arthur: American Sacrifice Zone"). “They want a radical movement,” writes Wen Stephenson, “one that grasps the problem whole, at the roots of the system, and fights alongside those who are already on the front lines—and always have been.” The Nation
Tired of Reading Yet? Watch This.
The one that got away: People have known for centuries that small, young fish need to be protected if we want to ensure the future of their species. (Little fish turn into big fish, and big fish reproduce.) But because we harvest all the biggest specimens, we’ve been inadvertently shrinking the average size of fishes. And that’s neither good for biodiversity, nor our dinner plates. MinuteEarth
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