The great nutrient collapse, disagreeing better, and why traffic sucks in Boston

Happiest of holidays to all! I hope you get to relax, recharge and reconnect with loved ones at the end of the year and decade (*gasp*! My reflection on the aughts here). Meanwhile, if you find yourself some extra time right now or during your holiday travels, here is a recap on some the best things that I read, listened and watched in the last couple of months.


A Netflix series on how modern day consumerism has made everyday products dangerous. I’ve only watched the recycling episode so far, but it’s great. If you are big on documentaries, here are more recommendations from the NYTimes Climate Fwd newsletter

Politico: The great nutrient collapse

Helena Bottemiller Evich, on rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere and how it affects the quality of the plants we eat (hint: it’s not good news). It’s an older piece from 2017, but still very relevant today. Side note: Helena is a team of fantastic reporters on staff at Politico who covers food and agricultural issues. I highly recommend subscribing to the Morning Ag newsletter they send out on weekdays.

Boston Globe: Seeing red

If you live in Massachusetts, this will make your blood boil. But don’t skip this one just because you don’t live here. Traffic, congestion and lack of public transit are a major issue in many parts of the world, and this 3-part series digs deep into the why. The Spotlight (the same team that uncovered the Catholic clergy child abuse in the 2000s) has done it again; this is truly an exquisitely researched piece of journalism.

Susan Orlean: The library book

One of my favorites from 2019. It centers on the LA library system, but traces the history of libraries, librarians, book burning, and more in tantalizing details. Libraries play a million roles: they were the Google, Thesaurus, and Translator before the digital age; the de facto homeless shelters in many towns; pioneers of online education and certificate programs (by providing free Internet and computers). Orlean’s book will convince you that libraries are truly palaces for the people, and one of societies’ most genius inventions.

Hot Mess: Why Climate Change is Anti-Justice (short video)

What a great series from PBS. This particular video does a great job succinctly explaining why climate change is not just an environmental issue. This video focuses on examples from the US, but the fact that climate change doesn’t affect everyone equally is even more true on the global scale.

Lindsay Miles: Less stuff (book)

Another decluttering book, you say? Well yes, but Less Stuff isn’t your average decluttering book. It’ll challenge your thinking around consumerism, teach you how to use decluttering as a tool to evaluate your relationship with “stuff”, and shows you various ways to find a new home for the things you are letting go.

Veritasium: 13 misconceptions about global warming (short video)

“Why are we calling this climate change now; wasn’t it global warming a while ago?” “How do we know if humans had anything to do with it?” “Don’t natural land and oceanic processes emit more CO2 than human activities?” All these questions and more, explained with data and graphics in 6 minutes. Derek Muller is the science educator behind the Veritasium Youtube channel (who knew you can even get a PhD in physics education?!). Fans of Bill Nye might recognize him as the correspondent on Bill Nye Saves on the World on Netflix.

The Weeds: The scary truths about air pollution (podcast)

The Weeds’ is a favorite policy podcasts of mine, and I’m really glad they’ve got an in-depth interview with Gretchen Goldman from the Union of Concerned Scientist about air pollution. People do not typically think of air pollution as a “priority issue” in the US (compared to countries like China, for example), but this episode will change your mind. (Not directly related to the environment, I also enjoyed another recent episode they’ve had titled “The internet we lost“)

Rationally Speaking: Seeing other perspectives, with compassion (podcast)

If you are vocal about environmental issues, “arguing with people” might be a thing you regularly find yourself doing. Julia Galef of Rationally Speaking has a pair of interviews on changing minds, reckoning, and disagreeing better. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Embedded: There is no playbook (podcast)

What actually happens when climate change threatens your community – we are not talking about some remote island nation here – this is Maryland.

Greens Stars Project: Dean Foods bankruptcy and ethical consumerism

Loved this blog entry from Jim explaining plant-based milk against the backdrop of dairy giant Dean Foods’ bankruptcy.

Everything on the Ezra Klein Show (podcast)

Ezra has had such on point guests lately. I learned much from his conversation with marine biologist Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson about climate crisis facing our ocean, ideas from entrepreneur Saul Griffith on why we have all the tools we need to fix climate change, and insights from Jane Flegal on geoengineering. Less on the topic of the environment, I also very much enjoyed this interview on meritocracy, social capital and cultural elitism. Lastly, I’m only half way through his conversation with Peter Singer – one of the most prominent moral philosophers of our time  – on living a more ethical life, and it is so, so thought-provoking. Go listen stat!

Header image credit: Paul Hanaoka via Unsplash