Kiera Butler

Kiera Butler

Senior Editor

A senior editor at Mother Jones, Kiera covers health, food, and the environment. She is the author of the new book Raise: What 4-H Teaches 7 Million Kids—and How Its Lessons Could Change Food and Farming Forever (University of California Press).

 

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Us to Earth: We Will Rock You

| Mon Jan. 28, 2008 6:00 PM EST

footprint150.jpgGeologically speaking, nature usually calls the shots. Historically it's been the case that major natural events—shifting tectonic plates, volcanoes, even asteroids—have shaped the trajectory of life on this planet. Not anymore. A team of researchers from the University of Leicester and the Geological Society of London is the latest group to make the case that the Holocene era is coming to an end, and the Anthropocene (meaning, basically, man-made) is on its way in. Our impact on the planet is so profound, say the scientists, we've changed our home for good. The evidence:

* Vastly altered sediment erosion and deposition patterns.
* Major disturbances to the carbon cycle and global temperature.
* Wholesale changes in biology, from altered flowering times to new migration patterns.
* Acidification of the ocean, which threatens tiny marine life that forms the bottom of the food chain.

This isn't a new idea. The term "Anthropocene Era" was coined by Paul Crutzen, winner of the 1995 Chemistry Nobel Prize. Crutzen identified three phases of the era—and made some guesses as to what we can expect next.

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Antarctica Is Melting, After All

| Fri Jan. 25, 2008 1:44 PM EST

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A while back, I blogged about how global warming skeptics were all smug and glowy (and wrong) about how Antarctica's not melting. If the sea ice in the South Pole is actually increasing, the reasoning went, then how could the planet be warming? Huh? Huh? Well, for a number of reasons, that logic is false, but guess what? It may be moot point anyway, since it turns out that the western part of Antarctica is melting—and fast: Ice loss in the region has increased by 75 percent over the past ten years.

A team of researchers led by scientists from UC Irvine discovered that the underlying cause for the melting was accelerated glacier flow, which is, in turn, caused by warming oceans. All that melting means higher sea levels:

They detected a sharp jump in Antarctica's ice loss, from enough ice to raise global sea level by 0.3 millimeters (.01 inches) a year in 1996, to 0.5 millimeters (.02 inches) a year in 2006.

That level of melting puts western Antarctica almost on par with Greenland, a dubious distinction, to say the very least.

War Dance Nominated for Oscar

| Tue Jan. 22, 2008 5:21 PM EST

wardance.jpgIt's official: War Dance—a documentary about former child soldiers who journey from their IDP camp in Northern Uganda to a music competition in the nation's capital—has been nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary feature. Its running mates: No End in Sight, Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, Sicko, and Taxi to the Dark Side.

Go here to read Mother Jones' interview with War Dance filmmakers Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine.

A Global Recession?

| Mon Jan. 21, 2008 10:00 PM EST

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Not since 9/11 has the world seen markets tumble as quickly—or as dramatically—as they did today: While American markets were closed for the federal holiday, the MSCI World Index fell by 3 percent, and Europe's Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index plummeted by 5.7 percent.

This means a few things:

First of all, Bush and Bernanke's attempt to prevent a recession by calling for a stimulus package didn't quite do the trick. In fact, globally speaking, it probably made things worse:

The selloff followed falls on U.S. markets on Friday that ended the worst weekly performance on Wall Street for five years and a round of bloodletting in Asian markets yesterday, as investors were left underwhelmed by U.S. President George W. Bush's package of measures aimed at stimulating the world's largest economy.

Friends: Who Needs 'Em?

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 5:03 PM EST

volleyball100.jpgNo friends? No problem! Researchers at the University of Chicago say you can make them yourself out of everyday household objects.

For evidence, they say, look no further than a crappy Tom Hanks movie:

"In the movie Castaway, Tom Hanks was isolated on an island and found the social desolation to be one of the most daunting challenges with which he had to deal," said Cacioppo, the Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology at the University of Chicago.
"He did so, in part, by anthropomorphizing a volleyball, Wilson, who became his friend and confidant while he was on the island." Although fictional, "Castaway depicts a deep truth about the irrepressibly social nature of Homo sapiens," Cacioppo said.


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