The Last Straw?

The last light went out, plunging the neighborhood into darkness. First, a quiet rustling, then silence. Somewhere a dog barks. The rustling resumes. The garbage can lid shifts slightly with a tinny sound. Suddenly, the lid flips off the can and an explosion of plastic straws, disposable water bottles and fast food wrappers cascades onto […]

Out of Bounds

There is an urgent need for a new paradigm that integrates the continued development of human societies and the maintenance of the Earth system (ES) in a resilient and accommodating state. The planetary boundary (PB) framework contributes to such a paradigm by providing a science-based analysis of the risk that human perturbations will destabilize the […]

Our Only Planet

The great hope of the Enlightenment – that human rationality would enable us to transcend our evolutionary limitations – has taken a beating from wars and genocides, but only now, on the problem of climate change, has it foundered altogether. ~ Jonathan Franzen Earth system scientists … say biogeochemical pollution is one of four “planetary […]

Wind Turbines and Birds Go Around and Round

Bird collisions happen because birds see the world differently.  ~ The American Bird Conservancy   “Creak, creak, creak…” lazily interrupted the silence of the prairie. Another hot day quail hunting, we walked up to the ancient windmill where the dogs could get water and tried futilely to avoid stepping in the cow pies where the […]

Pride and Prejudice

(Apologies to Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith) “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.” ~ Jonathan Swift As a regulator, I was often criticized for being biased and letting that bias prejudice my decisions. Of course, it was always the people who disliked my […]

In My Town

“… the growing number of empty and under-performing, especially retail, sites throughout suburbia gives us actually a tremendous opportunity to take our least-sustainable landscapes right now and convert them into more sustainable places. And in the process, what that allows us to do is to redirect a lot more of our growth back into existing […]

Natural Rhythms

“We cannot step outside life’s songs. This music made us; it is our nature.” ~ David Haskell quoted by Maria Popova In the opening scene of the movie, “Taps,” Gregory Hines, deep in the silence of night in a prison cell, hears drops of water on metal. The rhythmic plops make a beat that ultimately moves […]

The ‘Vores

    “Heaven sends us good meat, but the Devil sends cooks.” ~ David Garrick Preparing dinner that night was complicated. Among the two extended families present we had vegetarians, a vegan, and people that were gluten- and lactose-intolerant. The three different pans of lasagna, salad and bread got everyone something to eat. Dessert was […]

Hey Buddy, Can You Spare a Little (Climate) Change?

“And so, I became miserably conflicted about climate change. I accepted its supremacy as the environmental issue of our time, but I felt bullied by its dominance. Not only did it make every grocery-store run a guilt trip; it made me feel selfish for caring more about birds in the present than about people in […]