Behind the Curve

The Keeling Curve—the sawtoothed upward slope of atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentrations—may be the world’s most famous scatter plot. The data that form the curve have been accumulating since the 1950s, when scientist Charles David Keeling set up his instruments at a geophysical observatory high on Mauna Loa, one of the massive volcanoes that form the Big […]

Guest Post: The Resilience of The Citified Bobcat

If you were a bobcat, all tufted ears and oblique green eyes and lush spotted coat, you might find a lot to like about life in the Santa Monica Mountains. In the low, rugged range that bisects metropolitan Los Angeles, you would feast on the hordes of rats that frequent the unkempt middens of slovenly humans. You […]

From Puffball to Predator

On December 6, 2005, a polar bear was born in captivity. His mother rejected him and his twin, and his twin died. The survivor was an adorable baby polar bear, but that phrase doesn’t need the initial adjective, does it? A baby polar bear is a little puffball, white with button eyes and perfect and […]

These Are a Few of Our Favorite Places

When my husband finished grad school in 2006, we spent a lot of time talking about where we should go next. We knew we wanted to leave the college town in Oregon where we’d lived for the last few years. Should we head to the Cascades, move north along the Willamette River, or go south and west, […]

The Language of Change

The nature writer Robert Macfarlane is so skilled—so precise, so observant—that he can make an unsuspecting reader long for mudflats. This careful selector of words is also a collector of them: Macfarlane has just published a lovely essay (and a book) about his hoard of “place words,” terms gathered over years of travel in Britain […]

Dreaming in the Pleistocene

It would have been different if it hadn’t been a cave, if the excavation had been out in the daylight where mystery more easily washes out. The darkness helped, nothing but my headlamp to show the way. Every morning we’d suit up at the cave entrance. A group of scientists descended a ladder one by […]

Flabbergasted By the Real World

I grew up on a small farm and among other creatures, we raised chickens. Every day they had to be fed and watered and their eggs, warm from their bodies, had to be gathered. When the chickens got old enough to stop laying regularly, we’d turn them into stew: we’d kill them and dress them, […]

A Visit From the Christmas Squirrel

He must have come in through the mail slot. I imagine him watching the mailman stride up the front steps Christmas Eve, flipping open the metal flap and thrusting the envelopes inside. The flap is propped open a smidge by the metal binder clip we use to hold outgoing mail. It is snowing — cold. […]