The Great Debate

Antisocial genesis of the social cost of carbon

By Susan E. Dudley, Brian F. Manix and Sofie E. Miller
October 10, 2013

The day after his 2009 inauguration, President Barack Obama committed to “creating an unprecedented level of openness in government.”

Why “sustainability” should be more than a meaningless buzzword

By Elizabeth Scharpf
October 7, 2013

The term “sustainability” crept into the business lexicon slowly, by way of the environmental movement. It no longer means covering operating costs with profits, the definition I learned at Harvard Business School six years ago. Instead, it’s morphed into a blurry term that fits into whatever suitcase you want it to — a catchall for everything “socially good,” whatever that means.

Amid environmental destruction, China is battling to protect wildlife

By Liu Xiaoming
September 27, 2013

Recently my family and I went through photos we had taken in Scotland. These images brought back memories of my fascination with the pristine Scottish natural environment. There are the breathtaking highlands, the sparkling lochs, the magnificent glens and the abundant wildlife. All these reminded me of Liaoning, my home province.

Stepping up to the plate to reduce food waste

By Achim Steiner and Peter Lehner
September 20, 2013

How many times have you reached into the refrigerator, only to discover the yogurt or fruit juice you were looking forward to enjoying had passed its expiration date?

The darkness behind fracking’s silver lining

By Richard Schiffman
June 25, 2013

A natural gas pipeline under construction near East Smithfield in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, Jan. 7, 2012. REUTERS/Les Stone

Nature adapts to survive climate change

By Jonathan Silver
March 15, 2013

While the climate change discussion in Washington is moving at a glacial pace, nature is responding to climate change at record speed. The animal, plant and insect kingdoms aren’t interested in public policy. They don’t read political blogs. They adapt because they have to. They must change to survive.

Murders in the forest

By Olesia Plokhii
September 20, 2012

Since Apr. 26, a crusading forestry activist, a muckraking journalist and a 14-year-old girl have been killed in Cambodia because they tried to safeguard the country’s dwindling land reserves. They are all victims of a decade-long battle over Cambodia’s ecological future, a fight that in the past two years has turned more bloody and corrupt. Their deaths offer the world a stark vision of how crony capitalism has replaced totalitarianism as the threat to human rights in Southeast Asia. In Cambodia, the price of a human life pales in comparison with a blank check.

Silent Spring’s 50th anniversary: What would Rachel Carson say now?

By Paul R. Ehrlich
June 26, 2012

When I was a graduate student at the University of Kansas, the pesticide DDT was very much on my mind. My assistantship in 1953 involved research on the evolution of DDT-resistance in fruit flies. It quickly became clear to all of us in this research group that the broadcast use of pesticides was a losing and dangerous game. When I attempted to raise butterflies in New Jersey in the 1940s, bringing food plants in from nature usually resulted in the caterpillars dying. In those days, widespread spraying of DDT to control mosquitoes coated much of the countryside with poison. In the lab it was easy to use selection to make flies impervious to DDT in some 10 generations, or, in contrast, so susceptible that they would drop dead at a whisper of that “miracle” chemical’s name. Evolution of resistance tended to make continuous use of any pesticide inefficient. The usual response of the chemical industry was to recommend increasing the dose or to substitute more toxic compounds, making pest control even more expensive and dangerous.

Yes, there are things the Rio summit can accomplish

By Tensie Whelan and Paul Polman
June 21, 2012

The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio was marked by optimism and hope, but much of the buzz about the upcoming Rio+20 meeting is skeptical and cynical. Critics say the Rio process has been unduly bureaucratic and hasn’t lived up to its goals. They are branding Rio+20 as a failure before it has even begun. President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron are sitting it out. Some even say that in the radically decentralized Internet Age, the days when government leaders or U.N. bodies can set global agendas by fiat are long gone.

Mystery of the disappearing bees: Solved!

By Richard Schiffman
April 9, 2012

If it were a novel, people would criticize the plot for being too far-fetched – thriving colonies disappear overnight without leaving a trace, the bodies of the victims are never found. Only in this case, it’s not fiction: It’s what’s happening to fully a third of commercial beehives, over a million colonies every year. Seemingly healthy communities fly off never to return. The queen bee and mother of the hive is abandoned to starve and die.