Global Conservation on a Used Planet

A Democratic Vision for the Anthropocene

For over a decade, landscape ecologist Erle Ellis has marshalled an enormous trove of archaeological, paleontological, and historical evidence to demonstrate that humans have been terraforming the Earth for many, many millennia. A planet that once could support perhaps a few million humans today supports seven billion. Humans today use over half the terrestrial planet, mostly to grow food and raise livestock but also for settlements, mining, energy, and timber production. Even the areas of the planet that haven’t been intensively managed by humans bear the signature of our presence and our impact in one way or another.

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In Search of a Feminist Environmentalism

What Would Environmentalism Look Like If It Took Women's Realities Seriously?

“Not so long ago,” Jennifer Bernstein begins her important new essay in the Breakthrough Journal, “technologies like microwaves and frozen foods were understood to be liberatory.” Along with other modern conveniences, those devices dramatically reduced domestic demands upon women’s labor, opening theretofore unheard-of possibilities for women to enter the workforce, get educated, and achieve personal and economic autonomy.

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America’s Role in Global Nuclear Innovation

The Once and Future King?

If there’s a nuclear renaissance happening in the world today, it’s not in America. More reactors went online globally in 2016 than in any year since 1990, but that was mostly in other countries—China, Pakistan, India, and Russia. That makes sense, since electricity demand is growing globally while stagnating in the United States. But is there a downside to the United States forfeiting leadership in nuclear energy?

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Demons Under Every Rock

The Ever-Expanding Definition of Climate Denial

In his 1993 New Yorker story about recovered memory and “Satanic Ritual Abuse syndrome,” Lawrence Wright tells the story of Paul Ingram, a Pentecostal and Thurston County, Washington, sheriff’s deputy accused of ritually abusing his daughters in a Satanic cult that he had allegedly started with his poker buddies. Ingram had no memory initially of the events that were alleged to have happened. But he didn’t unambiguously deny them either. After hours of interrogation, and thanks both to leading questions from his interrogators and a shared Manichean worldview, Ingram begins to recover memories of the abuse. His daughters, too, begin uncovering new memories. 

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Urbanization in the 21st Century

A Double-Edged Sword

In the developing world, large cities are and will continue to be the engines of prosperity and growth. That’s the conclusion of new research by Ed Glaeser and Wentao Xiong. But the benefits of urbanization in emerging economies are not a fait accompli. And even as density, clustering, and agglomeration drive innovation and efficiency, they also concentrate intra-urban inequality and drive sharper divisions between urban and rural populations. How to wield the double-edged sword of urbanization in the 21st century is, as Richard Florida writes in his recent book, “the central crisis of our time.”

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Balancing Clean Energy Costs and Green Jobs

Green Growth Reconsidered

What’s more important—creating jobs in the energy sector or creating jobs in the rest of the economy? In some cases, energy transitions can do both, when new energy technology both results in expanding employment within the energy sector and drives economy-wide job growth as well. But that’s not always the case. In an interesting new post on “green jobs” at the Haas School of Business Energy Institute blog, Andrew Campbell points out that we frequently highlight the jobs created by the growth of clean energy while ignoring those that have been lost.  

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Energy Access or Energy for Development?

Aim Higher

By Emma Brush and Alex Trembath

Obviously, universal energy access is a worthy goal.

But the problem with “energy access” is that, as a problem definition, it elides many of the challenges communities face. About a third of those who subsist on wood and other forms of biomass do in fact have some access to electricity; the far larger problem is that they remain isolated from modern fuels, infrastructure, and economic opportunity.

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Solar in California

Pushing Boundaries and Testing Limits

Solar power in California continues to grow. But as California becomes one of the first regions in the world to get over 10% of its annual electricity from solar, it will also be the first to hit major obstacles to continued growth of solar generation. Utility-level solar, mostly photovoltaic and also some concentrating solar, constituted nearly 10% of raw electricity generation in California in 2016. When distributed solar is taken into account, this figure rises to 13%. This is an impressive achievement for the growing industry, and well above the national average of about 1% solar on the grid.

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The End of the Nuclear Industry as We Know It

Toward a 21st-Century Model of Nuclear Innovation

News last month that Westinghouse is facing crippling losses due to cost overruns and delays at four new nuclear reactors under construction in the US are but the latest evidence that the nuclear power industry in developed economies is in deep trouble. China, South Korea, and Russia continue to build new nuclear plants. But in the United States, Western Europe, and Japan, the nuclear industry, as we have known it for over a half-century, is coming to an end.

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Cities: A Climate Solution?

New Analysis Shows California Can't Meet Climate Goals Without Denser Cities

California cannot meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets without increasing density in already-developed cities, according to a recent analysis by the LA Times, the California Air Resources Board, and BuildZoom.

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