Konrad Steffen’s Desk

Earlier this month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change came out with an even firmer stance on current environmental affairs, including reams of new data from more scientists saying, basically, news is not good. The New York Times called it “the starkest warning yet.” Little new was revealed in the report, rather it deepened the […]

Winter Blooms

Winter is settling in: the air is nippy, branches are bare, and wearing open-toed shoes is now out of the question. During a recent visit to a horticulture centre, though, I was impressed to see that many flowers in their gardens still bloomed. Cheery red blossoms, gold-centered asters, and frilly magenta petals popped against a bleak backdrop […]

What Destruction Has Wrought

On Monday, a slowly-creeping lava flow claimed its first house on the Big Island of Hawaii. The iron-heavy pahoehoe flow crossed the house’s yard and moved through a wall, sending flames into the 1,100-square-foot structure before continuing on to take down a nearby corrugated shed. This flow has been on the move since it first […]

Forward by Failure

A few years ago, I decided to take up hunting. This was kind of a big deal, because I’d spent the first decade-plus of my adult life as vegetarian. I became a big game hunter for the same reason I raise chickens — to know where my food comes from and ensure that it’s raised […]

Guest Post: My Unhard Heart

Having grown up in Connecticut, I spent most of my childhood exploring streams, creeks, shorelines and marshes. Some of those places weren’t just mucky, they were dirty (as in “this is why we have the Clean Water Act” dirty). But all around, there were lush, green, magical places. When I moved to the arid Southwest, […]

Guest Post: Planning to Sprawl

I’ve been teaching undergraduates for a while now, various takes on the general theme of the environment and society.  Here are some things I’ve noticed. The students often believe that they have discovered the environment and all the bad things we are doing in it.  Up to now, they suppose, we have been unaware, self-centered […]

The Legacy of Lonesome Larry

This story has a happy ending. I promise. Every year before the turn of the last century, some 150,000 sockeye salmon made an epic journey: They traveled from the Pacific Ocean up the Columbia River, hung a right into the Snake, a left into the Salmon, and finally, after swimming upstream for 900 miles, arrived in the clear, icy waters […]

More Energy, Less Freedom

The writer and filmmaker Swain Wolfe spent his earliest years at a tuberculosis sanatarium near Colorado Springs, Colorado, where his father was the director. After World War II, the sanatarium closed, his parents divorced, and his mother moved Wolfe and his sister to a ranch in western Colorado and then, when Wolfe was a teenager, to Montana. […]