Weekend Reads: Botoxing the Beach, Fire Ants on the Warpath, Hunting Secret Flowers
Five #greenreads to ponder as you take a breather from the Zimmerman trial.
“From Coast to Toast” The ultra-rich and famous of Malibu and Nantucket are fighting a desperate war against the sea—and their neighbors. As ocean levels climb, and erosion gobbles up coastlines around the world, scores of multi-million dollar beachfront homes are at risk of tumbling into the waves. Wealthy property owners have proposed everything from “botoxing” the beach with $20 million worth of imported sand to building protective walls and anchoring bluffs with sacks of rocks. But the homeowners are facing fierce pushback from the not-so-rich: local fishermen, conservationists, environmentalists, and even those communities whose sand they want to purchase. Regardless, the proposed projects would buy them 5 to 25 years at most before the waves come crashing in. William D. Cohan and Vanessa Grigoriadis hustle us through the coasts' twin tragicomedies. Vanity Fair
“Ants Go Marching” Fire ants (a.k.a. "ants from hell" or "them devils”) are a real menace in the American South. Swarms of these invincible, invasive critters set a person’s skin on fire with nasty stings and even kill folks who are highly allergic to them. The ants also ruin crops, eat wildlife, and damage cemeteries and golf courses (two places they just love), costing the United States an estimated $6 billion a year. Inspired by his own ant attack during a romantic picnic, Justin Noble takes us on a wild romp through the insect's migration spree across the South and schools us in countless, peculiar ways to kill them devils. Some of them might even work ... for a little while. Nautilus
“Teething Pains: the Fluoride Issue” Like many things — canned tuna, red wine — fluoride is good for us, but only up to a point. The right dose keeps your teeth healthy but too much can bring dental fluorosis, a condition that can destroy your pearly whites later in life. As fluoride becomes more common in tap water, beverages, and food, the rate of fluorosis in children is climbing, and the politics of regulating fluoride use are complex. So what's a mother to do at bedtime? Laura Wright Treadway navigates the many nuances of the issue. And then after frothing up her daughter's mouth with toothpaste, teaches her baby how to spit. OnEarth
“The New Bronze Age” Squeezing copper from the ground is getting tougher, pricier, and more toxic to the earth, and a decade ago, the mining difficulties seemed to be a death sentence for the industry. But today copper mining is enjoying a renaissance (see "The Copper Age Returns (and Brings a Mess"). Copper keeps our modern world wired with electronics, and China’s booming middle class has jacked up demand and prices for the metal. Tim Heffernan weighs the long-term environmental and health costs of the world’s copper mines — some of which have grown so massive they create their own weather patterns — against the economic benefits the mines bring to some of the third-world nations in which they reside. It's not easy calculus. Pacific Standard
“Murky Waters” Coal is booming in Australia and five new export terminals are on the books for the Queensland coast to ship the black stuff abroad. But the projects come with dredge dumping and shipping traffic that could destroy the protected areas of the Great Barrier Reef. Chloe Hooper dives into what’s at stake for the reef and Queenslanders, as a crew of tanned and tattooed Greenpeace activists sail up the eastern seaboard, rallying locals to their cause. The environmental group is spoiling for a fight (though exactly what kind of civil disobedience it's planning, it won’t say). The Sydney Morning Herald
Tired of Reading Yet? Watch This.
Jungle fever: For Peruvian field botanists who scale trees in the Amazon in search for a new species of plant, the climb is thrilling. But watch out for those falling flowers!
Image: William A. Clark