On April 22, 1970, Americans pledged environmental action for the planet. Here’s what scientists and we, the global community, have done since
By Smithsonian magazine
SMITHSONIANMAG.COM | April 22, 2020, 7:20 a.m
When Gaylord Nelson stepped up to the podium in April 1970, his voice rang with powerful purpose. The Wisconsin senator set forth a challenge for America—a call to arms that he declared a “big concept”: a day for environmental action that would go beyond just picking up litter.“
Winning the environmental war is a whole lot tougher than winning any other war in history,” he said. “Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty. The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human beings and all other living creatures.”
In the half-century since concerned people all across the United States took steps to repair a world rife with pollution, litter, ecological devastation, political apathy and wildlife on the brink, great strides have been made and major setbacks have been recorded. An estimated 20 million Americans volunteered their time and energy to live up to Nelson’s goal. Inspired by man-made disasters like the burning of Ohio’s Cuyahoga River and an oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, environmentalists of the day pushed the nation and the world to recognize the damage they were inflicting on the planet and to change course. Social justice lawyers and urban city planners took up the hard effort of bringing this vision to the impoverished, the hungry and the discriminated.
In recent years, the Instant Pot has soared in popularity as a one-stop shop for pressure-cooking, sautéing, steaming and boiling.
Its multi-uses have made it a useful appliance to easily prepare anything from rice to pot-roast. But one lesser-known function of this kitchen gadget is that it can serve as a reliable incubator for germinating garden seeds.
Sounds like birdsong and flowing water may alleviate stress, help lower blood pressure and lead to feelings of tranquility
A creek runs by moss-covered rocks not far From Sol Duc Falls in Olympic National Park. Researchers have found that listening to natural sounds like running water may benefit human health. (Naphat Photography via Getty Images)
Miles away from the nearest road in Colorado’s Wheeler Geologic Area, the problem of noise pollution hit home for conservation biologist Rachel Buxton.
‘It was a gorgeous, remote valley, and then a plane flew over and you could hear the noise for ages as it reverberated in the valley,” she says. “I remember thinking, ‘wow, this is a really pervasive issue.’”
Buxton teamed up with researchers from the National Park Service and Colorado State University to author a 2019 study documenting manmade noise in U.S. national parks.
The study was part of a growing pile of research exploring noise’s negative impacts on animals and humans alike. Noise makes it hard for animals to find food and mates and can lead humans to suffer stress, high blood pressure and other ailments.
These reoccuring story elements have proven effects on our imagination, our emotions and other parts of our psyche
By Angus Fletcher, smithsonianmag.com March 10, 2021
Shortly after 335 B.C., within a newly built library tucked just east of Athens’ limestone city walls, a free-thinking Greek polymath by the name of Aristotle gathered up an armful of old theater scripts. As he pored over their delicate papyrus in the amber flicker of a sesame lamp, he was struck by a revolutionary idea: What if literature was an invention for making us happier and healthier? The idea made intuitive sense; when people felt bored, or unhappy, or at a loss for meaning, they frequently turned to plays or poetry. And afterwards, they often reported feeling better. But what could be the secret to literature’s feel-better power? What hidden nuts-and-bolts conveyed its psychological benefits?
After carefully investigating the matter, Aristotle inked a short treatise that became known as the Poetics. In it, he proposed that literature was more than a single invention; it was many inventions, each constructed from an innovative use of story. Story includes the countless varieties of plot and character—and it also includes the equally various narrators that give each literary work its distinct style or voice. Those story elements, Aristotle hypothesized, could plug into our imagination, our emotions, and other parts of our psyche, troubleshooting and even improving our mental function.
Photographs by Neil Ever Osborne; Text by Neil Ever Osborne and Mark Jacquemain
SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE | March 2021
On the bay this fall morning, there’s a wind-carved rim of ice and a gathering of floes. One male polar bear, bony after a season without seal blubber, struggles along the slushy edge, haunches soaked, nearly slipping into the sea.
We are on Gordon Point, in northern Manitoba, where Hudson Bay widens into its northwest crescent. Polar winds make it colder than at comparable latitudes, and the shallow waters of the bay freeze early. Having passed the summer months in the subarctic wild of Wapusk National Park to the south, polar bears now congregate here, waiting for the ice to come in.