The MIT Press Reader shared an article excerpted from the book “Cultures of Contagion”. The article highlights how the study of radioactive particle movements worldwide during the 1950s and beyond has played a crucial role in shaping our understanding of global interconnectedness of our biosphere.

This new geophysical knowledge forms the foundation of our current global atmospheric and oceanic circulation models. Importantly, in tracking the diffusion of radionuclides both through the atmosphere and through plants, animals, and human populations, scientists could demonstrate the integration and interconnectedness of the entire biosphere.

An in-depth analysis of the floodings in Emilia-Romagna this year has been conducted by Corriere della Sera. The article provides useful information on the region’s structural problems that have worsened the floodings. Here are two interesting excerpts from the article:

La Romagna una volta era una palude, poi è stata bonificata e sulla ex palude si è costruito lo sviluppo. Dagli anni ‘40 in poi ogni metro quadrato si è trasformato in attività agricola, allevamenti, capannoni e abitazioni.

Negli anni ‘90 arriva la spinta federalista […] Il risultato è che se una Regione, per evitare allagamenti, deve rompere un argine che sta su un confine, l’altra Regione si oppone perché ritiene che i suoi campi siano più utili di quelli della Regione adiacente.

A positive spin on thinking about our own collapse, from an article by Thomas Moynihan who wrote a book an how humanity only recently started to think about its own extinction/collapse:

Only very recently in human history did people realize that Homo sapiens, and everything it finds meaningful, might permanently disappear. Only recently did people realize the physical universe could continue — aimlessly — without us. However, this was one of the most important discoveries humans have ever made. It is perhaps one of our crowning achievements. Why? Because we can only become truly responsible for ourselves when we fully realize what is at stake. And, in realizing that the entire fate of human value within the physical universe may rest upon us, we could finally begin to face up to what is at stake in our actions and decisions upon this planet. This is a discovery that humanity is still learning the lessons of — no matter how fallibly and falteringly.

In this article I also learned about the 1755 Lisbon earthquake which apparently which apparently lead scientists to study the phenomena, leading to modern seismology and earthquake engineering.

A quote from Geoffrey Bowker in a recent article at STS Italia journal Technoscienza reflecting on our relationships with viruses:

The general point for me here about stuckness and knowledge is that we look at the world wrongly from the beginning if we break it up into separate entities. The theory of evolution is just wrong if it only accounts for the origin of species. What is much more interesting is the development of relationships – as in Michel Serres’ discussion of the parasite form as central. In a related context, Martin Buber argued that the relationship — to thou or that — was always prior. We murder to dissect… at any level… within or without the organism. There are reasons why many biologists say the species concept is unreal: there is no singular slicing apart of a set of entities. We interpenetrate.

In an interview with Bruno Latour by Nikolaj Schultz, Bruno Latour discusses why critical zone scientists have a different epistemology compared to other scientists:

Epistemologically, they are far from the other sciences that I have been following for many years. And since they underline the discrepancies between their observations and the chemical reactions, it means that they are redescribing and rematerializing the question of territory, which we simultaneously try to redescribe and rematerialize in political and social theory. This is also where there is a link between Lovelock’s discovery, the political question of geosocial classes and critical zones.

Read the full interview here.

DW Documentary published a short documentary about the use of a type of pesticide, neonicotinoids, which are now seen as the main cause of damage to ecosystems and death of bee colonies. The video shows the truly horrendous practices of Bayer Group, which sells these pesticides, in manipulating research and policy.

For more than two decades, experts have been warning of the negative effects of neonicotinoids, with a whole range of studies published on the subject. It would appear that the industry, aided by the authorities, managed to successfully delay any ban on these substances for years. Studies show that neonicotinoids not only kill pests, but also bees and other beneficial insects.

See the video on Youtube here.

A brilliant explanation video from Kurzgesagt which explains some of recent discoveries in “gut science” about the importance of our gut microbiome.

Een artikel van Lode Vanoost “Over korte gazons, droog weer en gezond verstand in coronatijden”. Groot gelijk dat door de populaire “gazons” het probleem van droogte gewoon veregeren:

Onze gazons zijn in werkelijkheid een permanente aanslag op de natuur. Een kort gazon is een tegennatuurlijk fenomeen. Elke permanente monocultuur van één gewas op dezelfde plaats, zoals ons gazon, leidt tot bodemverarming. Elke plant haalt uit de bodem immers alleen die elementen die hij nodig heeft. De natuur houdt met zijn mengeling van soorten alles in evenwicht. Verarmde bodems zijn op hun beurt veel gevoeliger voor droogte.

Interessant is ook zijn opmerking over robotmaaiers die steeds populairder worden en het probleem nog eens erger maken:

De hedendaagse rage van robotmaaiers maakt dit alles nog erger. Door je gras dagelijks kort te houden wordt elk insectenleven vernietigd. Kort gazon is een dood tapijt.

An article from No Tech Magazine by Arthur Grimonpont introduces “dachas” and community agriculture that is common in Russia as a way reslient and biodiverse food system. The systems apparently arised with food shortages during the Russian civil war:

Garden communities (…) appeared in 1917, following the increasing and worsening food shortages after the Russian state established a monopoly on food production. The gardens, informal by origin, were originally disapproved by Soviet powers. However, they quickly became managed by the state due to their undeniable efficiency in counteracting the shortages. The communities were controlled by state businesses that divided the property into equal plots and distributed them to employees.

The author also gives some good examples why such a system may be a good alternative to industrial agriculture:

The moderate size of the plots and the ban on the commercialisation of the produce separate them from the agro-industry (seeds, fertiliser, tools) and from professional selling avenues: swapping and using your own produce are the only legal practices. The datchniki don’t have to put up with fluctuations in the price of agricultural produce. Their harvest, little or not at all modified, doesn’t depend on any factories or mainstream infrastructure. The mixture of fruit trees, vegetable patch plants and ornamental crops creates a varied island of greenery. The gardens host great biodiversity, which decreases vulnerability to disease, pests and adverse weather conditions.

See the full article, “A “Dacha” for Everyone? Community Gardens and Food Security in Russia” here.

Bruno Latour has written an article (first published in La Monde) which asks if the coronavirus could serve as a dress rehearsal for the crisis of climate change

It is as though the intervention of the virus could serve as a dress rehearsal for the next crisis, the one in which the reorientation of living conditions is going to be posed as a challenge to all of us, as will all the details of daily existence that we will have to learn to sort out carefully. I am advancing the hypothesis, as have many others, that the health crisis prepares, induces, incites us to prepare for climate change. This hypothesis still needs to be tested.

Read the full article, “Is This a Dress Rehearsal?”