Author Archives:

As sea ice shrinks, Arctic shipping options expand

As sea ice shrinks, Arctic shipping options expand

On October 7, 2013, the Nordic Orion bulk carrier ship completed its journey from Vancouver, Canada, to Pori, Finland, having traveled northward around Alaska and through the Northwest Passage. It was the first large commercial freighter ever to make the voyage through these typically ice-covered Arctic waters. Avoiding the longer journey, through the Panama Canal, … learn more→

U.S. Bike-sharing fleet more than doubles in 2013

U.S. Bike-sharing fleet more than doubles in 2013

The opening of the San Francisco Bay Area bike share on August 29, 2013, brings the combined fleet of shared bikes in the United States above 18,000, more than a doubling since the start of the year. The United States is now home to 34 modern bike-sharing programs that allow riders to easily make short … learn more→

Rising temperature, rising food prices

Rising temperature, rising food prices

Agriculture as it exists today developed over 11,000 years of rather remarkable climate stability. It has evolved to maximize production within that climate system. Now, suddenly, the climate is changing. With each passing year, the agricultural system is becoming more out of sync with the climate system. In generations past, when there was an extreme … learn more→

Chapter 7. Grain yields starting to plateau

Chapter 7. Grain yields starting to plateau

From the beginning of agriculture until the mid-twentieth century, growth in the world grain harvest came almost entirely from expanding the cultivated area. Rises in land productivity were too slow to be visible within a single generation. It is only within the last 60 years or so that rising yields have replaced area expansion as … learn more→

World solar power topped 100,000 Megawatts in 2012

World solar power topped 100,000 Megawatts in 2012

The world installed 31,100 megawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV) in 2012—an all-time annual high that pushed global PV capacity above 100,000 megawatts. There is now enough PV operating to meet the household electricity needs of nearly 70 million people at the European level of use. While PV production has become increasingly concentrated in one country—China—the … learn more→

Fossil fuel use pushes Carbon Dioxide emissions into dangerous territory

Fossil fuel use pushes Carbon Dioxide emissions into dangerous territory

Increasing global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), a heat-trapping gas, are pushing the world into dangerous territory, closing the window of time to avert the worst consequences of higher temperatures, such as melting ice and rising seas. Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels have grown exponentially. Despite wide … learn more→

Eroding soils darkening our future

Eroding soils darkening our future

In 1938 Walter Lowdermilk, a senior official in the Soil Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, traveled abroad to look at lands that had been cultivated for thousands of years, seeking to learn how these older civilizations had coped with soil erosion. He found that some had managed their land well, maintaining its … learn more→

Farmed fish production overtakes beef

Farmed fish production overtakes beef

The world quietly reached a milestone in the evolution of the human diet in 2011. For the first time in modern history, world farmed fish production topped beef production. The gap widened in 2012, with output from fish farming—also called aquaculture—reaching a record 66 million tons, compared with production of beef at 63 million tons. … learn more→

China’s growing hunger for meat shown by move to buy Smithfield

China’s growing hunger for meat shown by move to buy Smithfield

Half the world’s pigs—more than 470 million of them—live in China, but even that may not be enough to satisfy the growing Chinese appetite for meat. While meat consumption in the United States has fallen more than 5 percent since peaking in 2007, Chinese meat consumption has leapt 18 percent, from 64 million to 78 … learn more→

Full planet, empty plates: Chapter 2. The ecology of population growth

Full planet, empty plates: Chapter 2. The ecology of population growth

Throughout most of human existence, population growth has been so slow as to be imperceptible within a single generation. Reaching a global population of 1 billion in 1804 required the entire time since modern humans appeared on the scene. To add the second billion, it took until 1927, just over a century. Thirty-three years later, … learn more→