Five greenreads that NBC won't (we think) spoil the endings for.
Kenneth Weiss and Rick Loomis in the Los Angeles Times on our crowded planet: Global population surpassed 7 billion last October, and our little orb will house 9.3 billion humans by mid-century. In the multimedia series, “Beyond 7 Billion,” Weiss and Loomis document population growth’s impacts in Africa and Asia, where limited resources for growing populaces lead to starvation, environmental degradation, and destabilized societies. You'll meet a Kenyan child who dies of malnutrition and a young Afghan man who states, “My life got better when I joined the Taliban.” Still, the videos do offer some hope in the forms of roving camel caravans that dispense contraception, efforts to improve farming techniques, and women defying cultural norms concerning family size to better their children's chances for survival. As you watch, read, and scroll through photos, keep an eye on the scrolling population ticker. In the time that it takes you to explore the series, thousands of new humans will enter the world -- a sobering reminder that “The biggest generation in history is just entering its childbearing years.”
Todd Wilkinson in the Christian Science Monitor on right-minded ranchers: Cowboys trading in boots for Birkenstocks? It’s enough to make John Wayne ride off into the sunset with tears streaming down his leathery face. Yet a new generation of Westerners is transforming ranching, replacing destructive practices with sustainable ones. They rotate cattle instead of overgrazing. They feed herds native perennial grasses instead of hay. And they welcome predators like wolves and bears to their property. Giddy up! But while their newfangled methods have incited scorn from old-school cowboys, the reformers aren’t just a posse of tree-huggers. “Make no mistake: These are not new arrivals carrying out green techniques for the feel-good sake of being green,” Wilkinson writes. “[T]hey think it will help them survive -- and make money.”
George Black in OnEarth on Indian ingenuity:The blackout that plunged 600 million Indians into darkness earlier this week has widely been blamed on the country's reliance on coal. As Black points out in the Spring issue, however, India's coal addiction is far from its only energy problem: black carbon, particulate matter released into the atmosphere by burning firewood and dung on cookstoves, also plagues the nation. The pollution contributes to global warming, water shortages, and numerous (and deadly) health problems for those who breathe it in regularly. Fortunately, citizens are taking action against this scourge: teenagers are using cell phones to monitor and report black carbon's spread, and entrepreneurs help ease demand on the grid by disseminating solar-powered lanterns and phone chargers. With any luck, both blackouts and black carbon will someday be relegated to India's past.
Ben Hellwarth in Discover on undersea livin': Although most people associate the 1960’s with the space race, the decade was a halcyon period for another realm of exploration: the seafloor. A series of undersea habitats -- Sealab, Tektite, and a strange barge-like shelter dubbed “La Chalupa” -- sheltered teams of aquanauts for weeks at a time. In the 1970’s, however, funding for benthic adventures dried up, and La Chalupa was dragged to Florida and converted into a kitschy tourist destination. But the dream of undersea research colonies won’t die easily: a vessel named the SeaOrbiter, “a massive buoy that looks like the fusion of a spinnaker sail and the Starship Enterprise” and could house 18 or so people 40 feet below the surface, will likely embark on its maiden voyage next year. And for the rest of us curious about life beneath the surface, ecotourism resorts are sure to follow.
Christian MilNeil at Grist on Hollywood’s most famous waterway: Most people know the Los Angeles River from its cameos in movies like Grease, Terminator 2, and Drive. (Yup, the river is that feeble trickle in the middle of a paved channel that apparently young folks like to motor down.) Thanks to recent restoration efforts, however, the L.A. River might soon become more than a prop. Through the creation of riverside parks and youth outreach initiatives, citizens and government have been transforming this polluted waterway into a functional ecosystem and returning it to Angelenos for recreation (drag racing, not included). But as MilNeil points out, the best progress is being made by nature itself. Seasonal wetlands, "places where marsh plants like tule grass and willow trees can filter polluted water and provide wildlife habitat,” have reclaimed a number of derelict industrial spaces. Hopefully, the next flim shot in the recovering watershed will be Planet Earth: Rivers.
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.