This is the Sound of a Forest Changing

The Alexander Archipelago, a 300-mile-long sweep of islands off the southeastern coast of Alaska, is known for its isolation, its heavy rain, and its thick, ancient forests of hemlock, pine, spruce and yellow-cedar. Yellow-cedar, which John Muir called a “truly noble tree,” has long been prized for its fine-grained, butter-colored wood. But over the past century, as average temperatures have risen, […]

Redux: The Long Legacy of a Good Deed

Sombath Somphone, a respected civil-society leader in Laos, was abducted in Vientiane in December 2012 and has not been seen since. As President Obama becomes the first sitting U.S. president to visit Laos, we revisit this post about Somphone, his disappearance, and a long-ago turning point in his life. Two years ago this week, a […]

Science Metaphors (cont.): The Anthropocene

On Monday, at an international meeting of geologists in Cape Town, South Africa, the 35 members of the Anthropocene Working Group summarized their seven years of work. Chief among their preliminary findings is that the current human-dominated chapter in our planet’s history, informally known as the Anthropocene, is geologically real. That’s “real” as in “recorded in the earth’s rock layers.” The report is the latest […]

Toward a Unified Theory of Poohsticks

By the time it arrived at the edge of our campsite, the stream had grown up so that it was almost a river, and, being grown-up, it did not run and jump and sparkle along as it used to do when it was younger, but moved more slowly. It was still clear and shallow, but […]

How to Name a Caribou

Few species are more frustrating to taxonomists than the North American caribou. Ranging from the Canadian Arctic to the Great Lakes, caribou vary enormously in size, color, antler shape, habitat, and behavior. Some aren’t much bigger than domestic dogs; others are almost big enough to rub shoulders with a moose. For more than two centuries, […]

Redux: Draw Me a Picture of Nature

The literary critic Raymond Williams once wrote that “Nature is perhaps the most complex word in the language.” It’s a head-scratcher right up there with love, or goodness: We depend on it for survival, but we’re often not quite sure where it is, what it is, or whether we’re a part of it. Jessica Mikels-Carrasco, […]

Redux: Where the Wind Has No Name

Of all the evocative place words humans have come up with, the words for local winds may be the most varied and most charming. There’s the Albrohos of Portugal, the Gilavar and the Khazri of Azerbaijan, and the Shamal of Iraq. There’s the Cape Doctor of South Africa, the Hawk of Chicago, and the Wreckhouse winds of Newfoundland. […]

The Last Word

June 13-17, 2016 Christie thought she was from nowhere–until an internet quiz put her in her place. The novel Frankenstein, Michelle writes, “can be read a warning of the perils of human hubris and a brilliantly imaginative response to a global disaster.” Will we take its lessons and inspiration to heart in the face of our own monstrous creation, climate change? J-Shame: “It hits when your […]