Last week I finished reviewing Science Blogging: The Essential Guide, edited by Christie Wilcox, Bethany Brookshire and Jason G. Goldman. While it was largely written for those new to both science blogging and the online science communication ecosystem, there were a few tips that I thought were particularly useful.
Several authors talked about the types of posts that constitute science blogging, and one that jumped out at me was a regular post of interesting links. I’ve seen this done on other’s blogs (e.g., Dynamic Ecology, Small Pond Science), but for some reason have never done it myself. The book also reminded me that people like images with their blog posts, to break up the so-called ‘wall of text.’
So I’ve decided to do a weekly links post: Wednesday on the Web. I’ll feature interesting (to me) articles with a brief blurb about each one. I’ll also include more pictures to illustrate my points.
Welcome to the first Wednesday on the Web!
Canada’s fresh water at risk
A new report from World Wildlife Fund examined Canada’s freshwater ecosystems and found that not only are they challenged by pollution, overuse, invasive species and climate change, but there’s limited data to draw solid conclusions about how to manage them. Read the Globe and Mail article by Ivan Semeniuk here, and the actual WWF report here.
Wildfire and beetle killed trees
The mayor of the town of Jasper, in Canada’s Jasper National Park, has voiced concerns about the high wildfire risk around the town site due to the many standing dead trees killed by mountain pine beetle. He suggests prescribed logging might be the best way to manage the dead tree problem. The thing is—and this is counterintuitive not only to what the mayor thinks but also to what scientists thought—depending on your bioregion, beetle-killed trees may not in and of themselves be a fire hazard. This article from last fall covers the science in excellent and understandable detail, explaining in part that beetle-killed stands don’t burn as well because they don’t have any moisture/sap.
Sixth extinction or not?
I’ve read Elizabeth Kolbert’s book The Sixth Extinction. I thought it covered the science quite well, and was convinced by her arguments (and those of other scientists) that we’re entering what some call the sixth major extinction event. However, The Atlantic recently talked to paleontologist Doug Erwin, whose research suggests we’re not in the middle of such a great extinction event. This is based largely on the fact that we haven’t seen the major ecosystem collapses we might expect. For more on this article, see Jacquelyn Gill’s Twitter thread explaining how paleontologists assess extinction events. And for an alternate viewpoint, see this article in Nature that Gill refers to in her Twitter thread.
- British Columbia climate in 2050
New research from one of my alma maters—the University of Victoria’s Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium (PCIC)—suggests that BC in 2050 will see “more rain, longer heat waves, and rising tides.” For more on what various regions of the province could experience, see the CBC article here. For what PCIC predicts for Vancouver, see this report.
Is climate fiction (cli-fi) becoming reality?
What happens when the scenarios described in cli-fi actually start coming true? How does society—and individual people—cope with a rapidly changing world? This article is a bit behind the curve re: when cli-fi emerged (early- to mid-2000s, not 2011), and I’m not convinced that the endless car chase that is Mad Max: Fury Road is a solid cli-fi example (The Day After Tomorrow is, despite its scientific failings). But I was glad to see the inclusion of both Paul Kingsnorth’s Dark Mountain manifesto (I wrote about his book, The Wake, here) and one of my favourite poets, T.S. Eliot. The best line of the article, which I can attest to after having been through three summer droughts, was:
“Drought has always brought despair, and thunder fear, and unusual weather a creeping sense that the world is out of joint.”
On writing as practice
This article describes so accurately how we stray from our writing: we say we’re reading, we’re thinking, or we’re waiting for the muse. But writing requires practice—just like lifting more weight at the gym or cycling farther every trip.
My favourite paragraph:
“The practice of writing is also practice. It is the height of arrogance to scold ourselves for not putting something perfect on the page in a first go–what other job, what other sport, what other art gets things right the first time, every time they start something new? Wow, Mozart, that was awesome and you wrote it once, in pen! Gee, Usain Bolt, now that you’ve run as fast as you ever will around the track this morning, you’ll never need to train for the Olympics again!”
The Personal Essay wars
As soon as someone proclaims something dead (for example, an art form or a smartphone app), you can be assured that you’ll get many rebuttals saying the thing is alive and well, thank you very much. This is what happened when Jia Tolentino wrote an article in The New Yorker entitled The Personal Essay is Dead back in May.
My first instinct was to note that she was talking about confessional rather than personal essays. My second instinct was that it was unfortunate that she was laying all the blame for (her so-called) personal essays at the feet of women.
Tolentino’s article was followed by Lorraine Berry at LitHub, who agreed with Tolentino’s premise and noted that even Virginia Woolf had bemoaned the plethora of personal essays. Then Susan Shapiro at The Sisterhood called out Tolentino’s article for suggesting that only women wrote personal essays. Over at The Chronicle, Rachel Toor wrote in defense of the personal essay, noting that it requires reflection, imperfection, and soul to draw the reader in. And finally, one month after Tolentino’s original article, Zoë Bossiere published her own take at Brevity Mag. I think this one is closest to my perspective.