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The Sun Magazine

The Natural World

Pollution

The Dog-Eared Page

excerpted from
The Round Walls Of Home

We need to send into space a flurry of artists and naturalists, photographers and painters, who will turn the mirror upon ourselves and show us Earth as a single planet, a single organism that’s buoyant, fragile, blooming, buzzing, full of spectacles, full of fascinating human beings, something to cherish. Learning our full address may not end all wars, but it will enrich our sense of wonder and pride.

The Sun Interview

The Skeleton Gets Up And Walks

Craig Childs On How The World Is Always Ending

We think of apocalypse as a moment — a flash of light, then you’re gone — but if we study the earth’s history, we find that it’s not one moment. It’s actually a long process. In fact, it’s hard to see where it begins or ends. Like right now: evidence indicates that we’re experiencing the planet’s sixth mass extinction — a period when the rate of extinction spikes and the diversity and abundance of life decrease. Each such extinction event takes hundreds of thousands of years to play out, and it’s generally 5 to 8 million years before the previous levels of biodiversity return. So are we at the end or the beginning of a cycle? This could just be a temporary spike. The pattern could swerve in a different direction.

Quotations

Sunbeams

I bought a wastepaper basket and carried it home in a paper bag. And when I got home, I put the paper bag in the wastepaper basket.

Lily Tomlin

The Dog-Eared Page

Waste

As a country person, I often feel that I am on the bottom end of the waste problem. I live on the Kentucky River about ten miles from its entrance into the Ohio. The Kentucky, in many ways a lovely river, receives an abundance of pollution from the eastern Kentucky coal mines and the central Kentucky cities.

The Sun Interview

In Their Backyard

Robert D. Bullard On The Politics Of Where We Put Our Trash

We need a system to determine when a community has already shouldered its fair share. Right now, if someone wants to build a hazardous-waste facility, the EPA or state will assess the risk to nearby residents from that new facility only; the risks posed by the three or four or five polluters already in the area aren’t added to the equation. So there is nothing that might trigger the EPA or state to say that this community is overburdened by pollution.

The Sun Interview

Quiet, Please

Gordon Hempton On The Search For Silence In A Noisy World

Certainly people have their preferences regarding music and other sounds they like to listen to, but I do believe there is an “ideal” soundscape, and I’ve given it a name: “sonesia.” It includes the sounds of wildlife, such as songbirds. It includes the gentle sound of insects and the sound of distant water. (Up close, rushing water can mask the other sonic elements of the environment.) All of these sounds are indicative of grassland, a savannah. That’s where humans evolved, along with songbirds, which are the best indicator of an environment’s suitability for human prosperity: where songbirds live, there is also sufficient food for humans.

Quotations

Sunbeams

In New England they once thought blackbirds useless, and mischievous to the corn. They made efforts to destroy them. The consequence was, the blackbirds were diminished; but a kind of worm, which devoured their grass, and which the blackbirds used to feed on, increased prodigiously; then, finding their loss in grass much greater than their saving in corn, they wished again for their blackbirds.

Benjamin Franklin

The Sun Interview

The Good Earth?

Sandra Steingraber On How We’ve Made The Environment Dangerous To Our Health

Cancer is definitely not a random tragedy. If you look at a map of the U.S. and plot out the incidence of different sorts of cancers, you see patterns. Some cancers are more common in the Midwest and the Great Plains. Other cancers tend to cluster around certain industries. Those cancer maps are not proof, but they present a compelling hypothesis. If we see, over and over again, that bladder-cancer rates are higher in counties with leaking toxic-waste dumps — which is indeed the case — then that’s a clue. If we see leukemias and lymphomas are highest in areas of the Great Plains and the Midwest where herbicide use is highest, that’s a clue. It means “Dig here. Further inquiry required.”

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