Weekend Reads: Humane Slaughter? Python Poster Kids? Renewable Fossil Fuels?
Five greenreads to discuss over grilled tofu at your Earth Day BBQ.
Brian Lam in Popular Science on the secret lives of sharks: Every day, the fishing industry snags more than a quarter-million sharks, either accidently as bycatch or purposely for their fins. It almost always means death for the sharks, but what do such sizeable predator losses mean for the ocean overall? That’s the answer a crew of scientists-cum-pirates-cum-cowboys are chasing in the waters off the Bahamas. They’re on a mission to tag sharks with tracking devices to better understand why sharks do the things they do. “The ocean is like a fancy Swiss watch,” says behavioral ecologist Neil Hammerschlag. “I don’t know how all the gears work together. But I do know that if you take a major spring out, it’s not going to work as well as it is supposed to."
David Gessner at OnEarth on Tar Heeled shenanigans: Despite North Carolina's renowned educational institutions, the state doesn't seem to understand the definition of "renewable energy" -- or science for that matter. Well, at least its newly elected politicians don't. They are on a mission to open North Carolina's land to fracking and its seas to offshore drilling. According to them, fossil fuels are renewable (just give it a few million years) and helping growing industries like wind power is heresy. Climate change and sea-level rise? Never heard of it... "If you try not to think too much about how these lawmakers are bringing about the destruction of our state’s land and waters," writes Gessner, "you can’t help but be impressed by the sheer audacity of their legislative assault."
Mac McClelland at Modern Farmer on humane animal slaughter: The office phone at Prather Ranch Meat Company rings an awful lot. But the reason folks are calling Prather, one of the first slaughterhouses to offer certified organic beef products, isn’t to inquire after the usual concerns like antibiotic use or free-range grazing. It’s to ask whether the animals died peacefully. McClelland takes a trip to the progressive and so-called humane slaughterhouse to answer some pretty tough questions: "Are big slaughterhouses as bad as we imagine? Should we be paying as much attention to how animals die as to how they live? Even under the best circumstances, just how humane can slaughter ever be?"
Caty Enders for Outside Magazine on pythons in the press: Enders went to the Everglades earlier this year to witness a python-hunting bonanza. Or, what was supposed to be a bonanza. The month-long effort was meant to stem this invasive reptile population that has been swallowing up native species for decades, but the almost 1,600 snake hunters who flocked to Florida for chance at $1,500 in reward money only managed to catch 68 of the wily constrictors. Even so, the media ate it up. But pythons, Enders explains, aren't the only foreign species in the 'Glades, and invasives aren't the swamp's only problem by far. “Pythons are the tip of the iceberg," says one wildlife ecologist. “What we’re getting out of Burmese pythons is the poster child we would have never gotten any other way.”
Brian Kevin in Audubon Magazine talking about tree club: Whitebark pines in the northern Rockies are fighting a war on two fronts: on one side, bister rust (an invasive fungal disease) and on the other, the dreaded mountain pine beetle. But springing to the tree's defense is David Gonzales, a very accomplished ski bum who has a knack for bringing people together in the woods in order to save the woods. His nonprofit, TreeFight, enlists a ragtag group of volunteers and middle schoolers to plant saplings, record bird song data, and apply synthetic pheromones to pines to keep the bugs at bay. Gonzales realizes none of these efforts will stop the whitebark pine's true nemesis: climate change. But he and his team keep at it. "TreeFight's greatest value is bringing back evidence from these forests that our world is changing way more quickly than most people think.”
Tired of reading yet? Watch this.
Henry Fountain for the New York Times on sharing a river: For tens of thousands of years, the Colorado River Delta teemed with wildlife and lush vegetation, but in more recent decades, this stretch of Mexico has pretty much turned to desert, thanks to the United States and its many dams and water allocations. But soon we may let some of our water wealth trickle down.
Tips: @OnEarthMag (tag it #greenreads)
Image: Richard Ling