Berfrois

A Drop Fell on the Umbrella Magnolias

A Drop Fell on the Umbrella Magnolias

On rare occasions, the townsfolk of Amherst, Massachusetts, would catch a glimpse of a ghostly figure dressed in white, leaning over to tend her flowers by flickering lantern light.

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Oh, Yummy

Oh, Yummy

It's been a busy few weeks for announcements about how smart non-human life-forms are. First there was the talking beluga in California, then there was the elephant in Korea who could articulate a few words, then, finally, the report on a lowly slime mold's ability to make sophisticated decisions.

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Jenny Diski stares the muddle into existence

Jenny Diski stares the muddle into existence

The first lesson: finding. Actually, the only lesson: what you do when you find what you want is another lesson entirely, and not one that will be taught. Finding is a question of looking, my child. Of looking in the right way. That’s looking not to see, do you...

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‘What can the chick-a-dee call teach us about communication and language?’

‘What can the chick-a-dee call teach us about communication and language?’

Toward the end of summer, many songbirds in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere migrate south to overwinter in more favorable climates. But some species stay put. One of the most common groups of resident songbirds is the chickadees and titmice of North America and the tits of Europe...

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Plants-U-Like

Plants-U-Like

If you had to be an endangered animal, you’d be better off as a tiger than a toad. If you were a tiger, filmmakers might cast you in wildlife documentaries and journalists might write heart-rending stories about the disappearance of your kind. Your furry mug might appear on magazine...

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Moi Commun

Moi Commun

From Humanities: Rousseau imagined a pre-civilized state of nature in which our ancestors, more like apes than like ourselves, had no need or opportunity to exploit and enslave each other. As hunter-gatherers they could be essentially self-sufficient. The irrevocable change came with the invention of metallurgy and agriculture, twin...

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Ben Anderson: Quick, Emergency

Ben Anderson: Quick, Emergency

Prince George’s County Police Department Officers in a training exercise simulating a school shooting. by Ben Anderson Media reports suggest the first call to emergency services was made at 12.39am. Within 90 seconds, the parking lot of the Century 16 cinema in Aurora, USA was filled with around 25...

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Agustín Fuentes: Humans Being

Agustín Fuentes: Humans Being

The quest to provide a concise description of human nature is ancient, extensive and recently in vogue again. But the simplistic and linear narratives frequently offered up for whom we are and why we do what we do are mostly wrong. These basic, and erroneous, stories such as those...

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Thomas Dunlap: Guiding Birders

Thomas Dunlap: Guiding Birders

From The World of Birds, Roger Tory Peterson, 1977 by Thomas R. Dunlap Even people with no interest in field guides know about them; they lie on friends’ shelves and windowsills (the one near the bird feeder, usually), and people stand in the park, binoculars around their neck, thumbing...

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Planet Earth as Spaceship

Planet Earth as Spaceship

by Joe Linker “Now there is one outstandingly important fact regarding Spaceship Earth, and that is that no instruction book came with it,” says Buckminster Fuller, explaining the title of his 1969 book, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, in the chapter titled “Spaceship Earth.” The whole idea is a metaphor, comparing...

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‘The aim is to produce maps that governments cannot ignore’

‘The aim is to produce maps that governments cannot ignore’

Villagers in DRC being trained to use GPS systems. Photograph by The Rainforest Foundation From Environment 360: Deep in the African rainforest and three days from home, a tribal hunter, punting down a backwater, puts aside his spear and takes out a GPS handset. He doesn’t need the Global...

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Leslie Paul Thiele: Sustainability

Leslie Paul Thiele: Sustainability

King Midas turns his daughter to gold, from A Wonder Book for Boys and Girls by Nathaniel Hawthorn, 1893 by Leslie Paul Thiele Sustainability is quickly becoming the lingua franca of public discourse. It is endorsed by government agencies around the globe, championed by increasing numbers of international non-governmental...

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The Editorial Climate by Keith and Orrin Pilkey

The Editorial Climate by Keith and Orrin Pilkey

This good intentioned attempt to warn society has led to an unanticipated hailstorm of criticism and a loss of credibility across a broad spectrum of science. In Virginia, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli launched a civil investigation into renowned climate scientist Michael Mann.

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‘Manure is the flashpoint of exurban consciousness’

‘Manure is the flashpoint of exurban consciousness’

Thoreau’s Cove, Concord, Massachusetts From Design Observer: Currently, the town is embroiled in a minor controversy, played out on the municipal listserv, about a local pond that has been purchased by the town and preserved under a conservation easement. Where there used to be a clothing-optional beach and a...

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‘A quarter-mile of corkline and mesh writhing and splashing’

‘A quarter-mile of corkline and mesh writhing and splashing’

Bristol Bay, Nick Hall From N+1: About half the world’s supply of wild salmon comes from a system of rivers, lakes, and streams in western Alaska that empties into Bristol Bay, a relatively shallow body of water roughly 250 miles long and 180 miles wide. Every summer, 40 million...

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