Five greenreads to fill the time typically allotted for watching others play football.
Justin Gillis in the New York Times on beach hunters: Paleoclimatologists are looking for ancient coastlines, on a quest to find the pliomax. The what? The pliomax is the maximum height the seas rose during the Pliocene epoch (about 3 million years ago) when CO2 levels were around 400 parts per million (a.k.a. what we're now fast approaching). The fossilized beaches, which can sometimes be found miles and miles inland, are geologic clues that could help us understand just how high the tide might go if we keep up our hydrocarbon habits. But there's an important thing, Gillis reminds us, that the project can't tell us: "In a worst-case scenario, how fast could the rise happen?” Gulp. Yes, a bunch of scientists should get on that, too.
Stephanie Paige Ogburn for High Country News on growing old and old growth:Environmental activism is often considered the territory of the young, but old ladies can put up a good fight, too. Great Old Broads for Wilderness is a national group dedicated to engaging old folks in the great outdoors. Our country's senior citizen numbers are growing, and retirees have more time than most on their hands to get involved in advocacy, like GOB’s core issue of supporting wilderness designation. Official wildernesses prohibit roads and motorized vehicles, and some people have criticized the designation for making lands inaccessible to the elderly. These tough old broads don't buy it. They can still hoof it on two feet, and they shrug off any menacing vandalism and off-color remarks that try to intimidate them. "I never thought little old ladies in tennis shoes would be seen as such a threat," says one old lady presumeably wearing tennis shoes. Ogburn describes what may be the secret to their success: "Humor is more powerful than fear."
Ted Williams for Audubon on rat poison’s deadly reach: Think twice before you call the local exterminator, because a type of rat poison is killing more than rats, threatening the lives of wildlife, pets, and even people. Second-generation rodenticides are anticoagulants, which slowly kill rats and mice by preventing their blood from clotting. But they do the same to untold numbers of wildlife and household pets that scarf down a rat or mouse before it succombs to the poison. The products are widely available, even though the EPA declared them too dangerous for public use and ordered them off the market. Williams describes how these “weapons of mass destruction” are spreading through the food chain, creating a massive ecological disaster. Wildlife rehabilitators see birds dead from internal hemorrhages and foxes bleeding from their eyes. Meanwhile veterinarians are telling pet owners to keep their money. "I can’t save your dog."
Lizette Alvarez for the New York Times on an epic python hunt: After years fighting an invasion of Burmese pythons, many of which were former pets that are now wreaking havoc on the Everglades ecosystem, wildlife officials decided to get a little help with a hunting contest. Alvarez follows contenders in the 2013 Python Challenge, an all-out snake slaughter organized by Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Commission. The goal is simple: kill as many pythons as possible. Cash prizes will be awarded to hunters that nab the longest snake and the most snakes. Firearms, slaughterhouse bolts, and machetes are all recommended, but those with a soft spot for serpants might want to try Blake Russ’ approach: “Once Blake rode a scooter to a hunt, his flip-flops planted firmly on the floorboard. He spotted a python, hopped off, wrangled it into a pillow case, hopped back on and sped away.”
David Gessner for OnEarth on one bad-ass pioneer: “What does the latest overwhelming evidence of climate change have to do with a Civil War veteran most famous for being the first man of European heritage to plunge down the Colorado River?” Lots, explains David Gessner. The one-armed man was John Wesley Powell, a champion of science, who defended the West against politicians who just didn't get it. Early settlers believed that farming the dry landscape would magically bring rain. Powell recognized such thinking as nonsense that would spell disaster for people, crops, and the land. Gessner recounts his vicious fights with Congress and explains how we could use some more Powells today, as modern leaders dither over climate change. "Those on the right love to accuse those on the left of being soft, of not living in the real world. Powell was as tough and as real as you can get."
Tired of reading yet? Watch this.
Martina S. Wing for Ocean Wings Hawaii on some trustworthy humans: Night divers off the coast of Hawaii received an unexpected visitor earlier this month: an ailing bottlenose dolphin who allowed one diver to carefully cut away fishing line and a hook that were painfully entangling its pectoral fin. According to NOAA, hundreds of thousands of marine mammals are thought to fall victim each year to fishing nets, lines, and plastic refuse.
OnEarth is published by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The opinions expressed by its editors and writers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more.