Rodrigo Valenzuela featured in Harper’s Magazine 6.27.19


Among a million species now threatened with extinction, marine species are disappearing at twice the rate of terrestrial species, and British hedgehogs are in decline, possibly owing to a loss of hedges. An international team of scientists proposed that China could switch to carbon-negative electricity production through the use of coal; the United Kingdom, where 70 percent of asthma inhalers produce high levels of CO2 emissions, could achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 at a cost of 1 to 2 percent of its GDP; and India could make significant progress toward its air-quality targets if households stopped burning dung. The Brazilian state of Acre was experimenting with the distribution of carbon-offset assets through labor rights rather than land rights. Carbon remediation will require the restoration of natural forests rather than the expansion of tree plantations. Defaunation from hunting significantly reduces the carbon-storage capacity of forests, while de­forestation and poor land management are depleting the carbon-storage capacity of soil. A new NASA satellite, made with leftover parts from an old NASA satellite, will map Earth’s carbon sinks. Bacteria may produce additional CO2 as a result of ocean warming, which may itself contribute to blindness among octopuses, and a warming atmosphere may cause widespread damage to both insect and mammal sperm. The Yukon is the warmest it has been in fourteen millennia. The melt rate of old permafrost can be measured by radiocarbon dating the waters of Arctic rivers, and permafrost thaw was found to be not only releasing CO2 and methane but also damaging infrastructure and altering landscapes. Astronomers reported a Marsquake and a Great Dark Spot moving westward across Neptune. The first Scot in space returned to the Highlands.

An Australian study of 400 years of coral records found that El Niños have been getting stronger, a study of 3,000 years of shell deposits at the bottom of Lake Nakaumi revealed a history of monsoon failures, and archaeologists identified the species of shellfish foraged by ancient children on St. Thomas. A physically stressed juvenile macaque who died 4,500 years ago was unearthed in an Iranian grave of a type usually used for human infants; earrings adorn guinea pigs sacrificed during the construction of Incan buildings; and gold, turquoise, and a baby llama found in Lake Titicaca were interpreted to be ritual emblems expressing the Tiwanaku Empire’s desire to consolidate influence in the late tenth century. Quebecois data provides evidence of a broader trend in human evolution toward lower fertility in the two centuries preceding the Industrial Revolution. Changes in human and animal urine at Aşıklı Höyök track the transition from hunting to herding eleven millennia ago. Declassified U-2 spy imagery revealed the Middle East’s ancient irrigation canals and hunting traps, as well as the villages of Marsh Arabs destroyed by the proliferation of hydroelectric dams. Crusader DNA has mostly vanished from Lebanon. Oxford researchers attempted to determine how long it will take for the dead to outnumber the living on Facebook. Despair was rising among the youngest cohort of Generation X, and baby boomers were being blinded by shingles. Building materials are being manufactured from Londoners’ feces.

Cocaine is ubiquitous, and ketamine widespread, among Suffolk river shrimp. High levels of bomb carbon from nuclear testing were found in the tissues of amphipods living in the hadal zone. The discovery of new fossils, of comma shrimp species and of the long-extinct Callichimaera perplexa, forced evolutionary biologists to redefine the crab. The Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries intercepted a trained beluga whale suspected of working for the Russian military. After the whale retrieved an iPhone that fell from a woman’s pocket into the sea, officials proposed sending it to a sanctuary in Iceland.

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