5 best Earth Journal subjects of 2018

aerial photo of sea ice and open water in the arctic
REUTERS/Kathryn Hansen/NASA
One climate scientist predicts an ice-free arctic summer in the next few years.

There was never a shortage of subject matter for an environment- and science-minded writer in the year now ending, especially in the area of climate change. Indeed, there were periods when finding some other focus was a challenge – but variety matters, too.

Here’s a selection of developments that stand out for me as especially important, interesting, urgent … or all of the above.

1. Climate change may bring social collapse

Though it was quite the downer to prepare, and no doubt to read, it felt mandatory to spotlight new and alarming conclusions that climate change may bring significant social collapse in as little as 10 years. (Readers apparently felt it important, too – the page-view count went off the charts for a while.) I never want to be taken for an alarmist, but credible findings that climate disruption may accelerate  independently of emissions rates (and even large reductions) had not been getting the attention they merit.

2. ‘Brilliant Green’: What senses do plants use?

Easily the most eye-opening subject of the year was the book “Brilliant Green,” an Italian scientist’s intriguing survey of the advanced sensing capabilities of plants, which well outnumber the five possessed by humans and other mammals. Also, what he terms their intelligence, defined as plants’ ability to communicate and solve problems by using data gathered with the close equivalents of vision, hearing, touch, smell and taste, not to mention toxics detection, humidity gauging and more.

3. Unearned credit: Assessing Trump’s anti-environment efforts

Though not every reader appreciated my efforts to point out that a lot of Donald Trump’s anti-environment assaults were empty boasts, I think it’s imperative to deny him unearned credit. Also, to remember there’s been a lot of pushback in state legislatures. Finally, to be realistic about the absence of a green tsunami in midterm ballot measures.

4. Our rising seas

The year brought multiple opportunities to look at important new findings about coastal flooding from sea-level rise that will create waves of American climate refugees – whether the so-called “sunny day floods” that are unrelated to storms, or new mapping that dramatically enlarges the 100-year flood plain, or the threshold at which nuisance flooding become unbearable.

5. Why did feathered dinosaurs survive extinction?

Without really planning to, I’ve been writing a lot about evolution and extinction lately, especially findings related to birds.  Can’t help it, I’m fascinated – favorites include a column on new surmises about why feathered dinosaurs survived the fifth great extinction, and another on discoveries in the rare, nearly complete skeleton of a baby dino-bird.

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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Ray J Wallin on 12/30/2018 - 03:59 pm.

    The two of these subjects that concern climate change have urgent sky-is-falling predictions that have little or no merit from a scientific perspective. (but they possess emotional triggers that are good for getting likes on FB and twitter)

    Those who really want to do something about climate change should stick to the facts.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 01/02/2019 - 08:49 pm.

      False. There is overwhelming scientific evidence. You arr confusing the terms “stick[ing] to the facts” with “telling bald-faced lies.”

    • Submitted by Ray J Wallin on 01/03/2019 - 10:00 am.

      I’m not confusing terms. I am looking at facts. Not lies. Facts.

      If there is overwhelming scientific evidence, why does the author use the word ‘may’ twice in his #1 point? ‘May’ is not a fact.

      • Submitted by Paul John Martin on 01/03/2019 - 12:47 pm.

        The underlying facts are not in doubt, at least by any reputable scientific findings. The future effects need the word *may,* and that is how Ron Meador writes about them, as a responsible journalist should. Indeed, they may be worse than what he says. What is not in doubt is that, without immediate and far-reaching action, the world our grandchildren will live in will be a much less welcoming planet.

        • Submitted by Ray J Wallin on 01/03/2019 - 05:41 pm.

          Climate change is real. Making a statement that our grandchildren will be worse off is conjecture.

          Believing that we can do something substantial about climate change is also conjecture.

          Bjørn Lomborg has written a lot about this and make a lot of sense. He has a Ted video and is heavily involved in making our world a better place.

          Again, stick to the facts.

  2. Submitted by joe smith on 12/31/2018 - 08:17 am.

    What anti-environmental policy has Trump implemented that has hurt water, air or forests? Trump eliminated a proximity rule (totally useless rule) that stated a plant couldn’t be built or operate within 1/4 mile of “navigable water” (look up that definition for a laugh) in his first couple of weeks. The “Greenies” went nuts. It had nothing to do with water quality, just proximity. Those type of regulations need to be amended.

  3. Submitted by Kent Fralish on 01/01/2019 - 02:54 pm.

    It seems odd to me, that the only thing that may save us and this planet, isn’t even being discussed.
    Human population.
    As a world, let’s get a grip on that.

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