Guest Post: Guilt & Shame & Climate Change

The six undergrads that trickle into the Aquatic Ecosystems Research Laboratory at the University of British Columbia are unsure about what they’re in for. The room they enter is all black from the carpet to the walls and the ceiling. A conference table partitioned into six sections is illuminated in the middle. They each take […]

Ignorance: The Elevator Speech

Ever since I reviewed Ignorance: How it Drives Science, a charming new book by the Columbia neuroscientist Stuart Firestein, I’ve been thinking about ignorance. And I tell you, it’s been a bit of a headache. Firestein teaches a popular science class at Columbia, also called Ignorance, in which he invites scientists from different disciplines to talk […]

Evolve or Die

Several years ago, on a soggy but majestic mountain afternoon, I hiked into the Yosemite backcountry to meet UC-Berkeley mammalogist Jim Patton. Patton and his colleagues at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology were retracing the steps of renowned naturalist Joseph Grinnell, who surveyed California’s wildlife early in the last century — and obsessively documented his work in […]

When is it time to revise our story?

Today’s post began with a social media status update by my friend Paolo Bacigalupi. Paolo wrote: At what point does a “drought” become an “arid climate?” Paolo posed his question months ago, and at first glance, it seemed like nothing more than a jab at Texan politicians like Rick Perry, who deny climate change even […]

Autopsy of an Aspen

In the rural Rocky Mountains where I live, we disagree about a lot of things — politics, religion, water, Tim Tebow — but we all agree on aspen. We love them, especially when they turn blaze-yellow in the fall, and we’d like them to stick around. So in 2004, when aspen throughout the Rockies started […]

Let’s stop pretending we give a damn about climate change.

As I write this, 15,000 delegates from around the globe have congregated in Durban, South Africa to take part in a magisterial game of pretend. Officially called the 17th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, this recurring charade provides an opportunity for scientists […]

Not One More Winter in the Tipi, Honey

There are a lot of ways to shrink a carbon footprint. Bike instead of drive. Eat low on the food chain. You know the drill. Where I live, in the boondocks of Colorado, a lot of people — myself included, but I’ll get to that in a minute — go on a carbon diet by […]

Battling the Beetles

On a cold, clear June morning high in Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains, Jesse Logan stopped on a snow-covered hillside and pointed with his ski pole to a large pine tree. A few of its needles were turning red, a sign of trouble. About a dozen people gathered around him on the snow to listen. “We […]