Dial M for Medicine

One evening last week, after digesting about three times the recommended daily allowance of political news and making myself nauseous with anxiety about the state of the world, I resorted to a familiar remedy. My husband found me in the half-lit bedroom, staring at a flickering iPad. I looked up and shrugged. “Icelandic crime drama,” […]

The Quaking Giant

On the western edge of the Colorado Plateau, in the mountains of central Utah, is a tree that weighs an estimated 13 million pounds—as much as three giant sequoias, or 55 blue whales, or 10,000 grizzly bears. (Hey, I just thought you might like to imagine a pile of 10,000 bears.) This tree is the […]

Good Night, Patriarchy

I am a feminist, and I’ve raised my daughter to be a feminist. But lately, I’ve been administering feminism like it’s a damn inoculation. (The shot is metaphorical. The disease is not.) One of my favorite prophylactics against the patriarchy—suitable for girls and boys alike—is the feminist bedtime story, and happily, the selection is expanding […]

Why Rachel Carson Still Matters

On Monday, the Trump administration instructed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency staffers to freeze all of the agency’s grants and contracts—cutting off financial support for many state and tribal environmental protection programs. (Staffers were also told not to discuss the freeze with anyone outside the agency, but the news was quickly leaked to both ProPublica and the Huffington […]

The Precarious Life and Untimely Death of Whooper 4-11

The Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area, a patch of restored prairie and wetland in southwestern Indiana, is a a favorite stopover for migratory birds and itinerant birders. On January 3, while driving the grid of ruler-straight county roads around the wetland, a birder saw an unmistakable large, white shape: it was a whooping crane, one of the most endangered birds […]

Redux: In Case of Rapture, Head For Poughkeepsie

Do these dark political times have you considering a move to Canada? I have another idea for you. Since this post was first published, in 2011, Poughkeepsie’s post-apocalyptic advantages have only increased. A few years ago, I interviewed author and social critic James Kunstler about his novel World Made By Hand, his latest portrayal of a […]

Forcing the Issue

One of the best free diversions in London is the Wellcome Collection, the medical museum operated by the Wellcome Trust and supported by the posthumous generosity of Sir Henry Wellcome, the American frontier kid who became a British pharmaceutical tycoon. “Medicine Man,” one of the permanent exhibitions, is drawn from Sir Henry’s own extraordinary collection of memorabilia related to […]

Science Metaphors (cont.): Scale Mismatch

Dear readers, dear friends, As I write this, on the afternoon of November 9, 2016, the future looks very dark. If you respect reason and truth, if you care about the planet we depend on, if you believe that biology is just biology, not destiny, then I expect the future looks dark to you, too. I […]