New freelance writings: human-altered nature, and Biden’s space policies

Here’s some of my new writings in Undark magazine and on Substack. Thanks as usual to my excellent editors! I’m only posting brief excerpts here, so if you’re interested, please check out the whole thing using the links below.

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New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Tales of Nature Altered by Human Hands

In “Second Nature,” Nathaniel Rich explores the changing natural world, and our struggle to shape and control it.

Everywhere around us one can witness signs of the natural world’s dramatic changes — often by human hands — that seem to presage an unsettling future. People have already begun to grapple with destructive hurricanes, crumbling coastlines, climate refugees, the genetic engineering of myriad species, and mass extinctions.

While humans have long sought to adapt, exploit, or control nature for their own needs, the changes now happen with new tools and at larger scales than ever before. In his latest book, “Second Nature: Scenes From a World Remade,” journalist Nathaniel Rich brings to life the uncanny result: Many people don’t know yet how to respond to widespread environmental and public health crises as well as ethical quandaries that pop up in decisions about where we live, the food we eat, what species’ genes we modify, and what environments we want to conserve. In short, our technologically-driven advances are outpacing our ability to anticipate their impacts.

Rich begins by paraphrasing novelist William Gibson: The future is already here, but our souls haven’t caught up with our rapidly changing natural world. “The trajectory of our era — this age of soul delay — runs from naivety to shock to horror to anger to resolve,” Rich writes…

[Read the entire book review in Undark magazine, published on 7 May.]

Biden’s space policies look a lot like Trump’s so far

While President Biden’s tone and rhetoric certainly sound little like Trump’s, he’s nonetheless continuing some of his predecessor’s questionable policies. A reporter asked White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday, March 30, about the president’s space policies. She confirmed that, when it comes to space, Biden has agreed quite a bit with Trump.

Biden’s team has made or attempted major shifts in domestic policies, from climate change to racial justice to labor, but there’s actually quite a bit of continuity in space policy. For example, NASA under Biden is continuing Trump’s moon program, called Artemis — so named to hearken back to the glorious days of Apollo and the original moon landing more than a half century ago. But there is no clearly defined mission. It’s more driven by nostalgia and Trump’s attempt to put American boots on the lunar ground by 2024 — a convenient deadline he hoped would occur during his second term in the White House. Furthermore, work on the Artemis rocket and capsule are behind schedule and over budget. Instead, many experts call for more ambitious goals, focusing on the Mars program…

[Read the entire piece on Substack, published on 22 May.]

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