Off the East Coast, a Massive Network of Wind Turbines Is Coming—Along With New Risks for Migrating Birds
Birds crossing the Atlantic Ocean, like gannets, will soon have to navigate wind farms — and some will die because of them. But the shift to clean energy is crucial for their survival — and for the future of our entire ecosystem.
In the coming years, gannets zipping along the Eastern Seaboard will encounter unprecedented obstacles. In the United States 17 offshore wind sites are under development in the Atlantic, from Cape Cod at the north end down to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, just miles from where Patteson and I observed the gannets’ feeding frenzy.
In the past six months, there have been at least 40 reported incidents involving orcas off the coasts of Spain and Portugal.
Interested in further reading on plastics? Editor Seyward Darby recommends “How Plastic Liberated and Entombed Us” by Jeannette Cooperman at The Common Reader in our Top 5 Picks of the Week. Sign up to receive our Top 5 reads on Fridays.
At The Atlantic, Rebecca Altman examines the history of plastics, the first elements of which were conceived as a way to make money from the byproducts of antifreeze production. Altman helps us follow the carcinogenic compounds — and the money trail — through the Second World War straight into the American living room (Tupperware parties!) and out the back door with the trash, as disposable plastics were heavily marketed to keep profits flowing.
The piece is a fascinating history lesson on how humans prioritize short-term profits and immediate convenience over the future of the planet. While the Earth absorbs capitalism’s toxic byproducts and climate change is in full swing, we tout recycling, which for plastics is fraught, complicated, and largely unsuccessful.
Dad once believed that plastics could be reused indefinitely. I imagine that, maybe, he thought plastics, like their makers, deserved the chance to begin again. When Union Carbide downsized in the 1970s, Dad took severance and stayed home with my siblings until he could figure out what a life beyond plastics might look like. The answer, it turned out, was public administration: For a time, he ran my hometown’s recycling program. Recycling, though, never lived up to Dad’s ideal. Of all the plastics made over his lifetime, less than 10 percent has been effectively repurposed.
This failure, like so many other aspects of our relationship with plastics, is often framed in terms of individual shortcomings; plastics’ producers, or the geopolitics that have made plastics so widespread, are rarely called out. But to read plastics’ history is to discover another story: Demand for plastic has been as manufactured as plastics themselves. Society is awash in throwaway plastics not because of the logic of desire but because of the logic of history and of integrated industrial systems.
For decades, the industry has created the illusion that its problems are well under control, all while intensifying production and promotion. More plastics have been made over the past two decades than during the second half of the 20th century. Today, recycling is a flailing, failing system—and yet it is still touted as plastics’ panacea. No end-of-the-pipe fix can manage mass plastics’ volume, complex toxicity, or legacy of pollution, and the industry’s long-standing infractions against human health and rights.
Despite fickle conditions, Ireland offers powerful waves on empty beaches, if you come at the right time.
This week, we’re sharing stories from Jennifer Senior, Aaron Hutchins, Molly Ball, Diana Hubbell, and Vauhini Vara.
Jennifer Senior | The Atlantic | August 9, 2021 | 13,254 words
“Grief, conspiracy theories, and one family’s search for meaning in the two decades since 9/11.”
Aaron Hutchins | Maclean’s | August 4, 2021 | 5,045
“Who deserves absolution, and when, is one of humanity’s most vexing questions—one families devastated by the Humboldt Broncos tragedy can’t seem to avoid.”
Molly Ball | Time Magazine | August 5, 2021 | 5,745 words
“There is a thin blue line between order and chaos, and at that moment, Mike Fanone was it.”
Diana Hubbell | Eater | August 3, 2021 | 6,471 words
“For more than five decades, the Thai palm oil industry has been marred by rampant exploitation, violence, and corporate greed. Thailand is the world’s No. 3 producer of palm oil.”
Vauhini Vara | The Believer | August 9, 2021 | 5,992 words
“I didn’t know how to write about my sister’s death—so I had AI do it for me.”
This week, we’re sharing stories from Mike Giglio, Omar Mouallem, Katherine Laidlaw, Dave Daley, and Tim Greiving.
Mike Giglio | The Atlantic | October 1, 2020 | 27 minutes (6,950 words)
“A Pro-Trump militant group has recruited thousands of police, soldiers, and veterans. An Atlantic investigation reveals who they are and what they might do on Election Day.”
Omar Mouallem | Edify Magazine | September 28, 2020 | 15 minutes (3,835 words)
“The day that PS752 was shot down will forever be frozen in his memory.”
Katherine Laidlaw | Toronto Life | September 28, 2020 | 26 minutes (6,601 words)
“To women in search of love, Shaun Rootenberg seemed like a catch. What they didn’t know: he’d spent decades stealing from just about anyone who crossed his path. Lonely women on dating sites were only his latest prey.”
Dave Daley | The Chico Enterprise-Record | September 27, 2020 | 22 minutes (5,500 words)
A rancher’s account of a wildfire’s devastating impact on his family, his cattle, and the forests they have relied on for generations.
Tim Greiving | The Ringer | September 29, 2020 | 24 minutes (6,200 words)
“Looking back at the dog show–centric successor to the mockumentaries ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ and ‘Waiting for Guffman’ on its 20th anniversary.”
Atlantic City covers the northern third of Absecon Island, a barrier island made up of an alarming amount of sand. It is a bad town to die in — there are plenty of vacant lots but no cemeteries. In many places, if you dig down more than eight feet you hit water. A couple blocks away from the beach, the Absecon Lighthouse is built on a submerged wooden foundation for exactly that reason — so long as you keep wood wet and away from oxygen, it won’t rot. “We haven’t tipped yet,” said Buddy Grover, the 91-year-old lighthouse keeper, “but it does sway in the wind sometimes.”
“The problem with barrier islands is that, sort of by definition, they move,” said Dan Heneghan. Heneghan covered the casino beat for the Press of Atlantic City for 20 years before moving to the Casino Control Commission in 1996. He retired this past May. He’s a big, friendly guy with a mustache like a push broom and a habit of lowering his voice and pausing near the end of his sentences, as if he’s telling you a ghost story. (“Atlantic City was, in mob parlance … a wide open city. No one family … controlled it.”) We were standing at the base of the lighthouse, which he clearly adores. He’s climbed it 71 times this year. “I don’t volunteer here, I just climb the steps,” he said. “It’s a lot more interesting than spending time on a Stairmaster.” The lighthouse was designed by George Meade, a Civil War general most famous for defeating Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg. It opened in 1857 but within 20 years the beach had eroded to such an extent that the water was only 75 feet away from the base. Jetties were added until the beach was built back out, but a large iron anchor sits at the old waterline, either as a reminder or a threat.
A little more than two years ago, when I was an intern at a now shuttered website called The Awl, I went out to Atlantic City to cover the Trump Taj Mahal’s last weekend before it closed for good. My first night there I met a woman named Juliana Lykins who told me about Tucker’s Island — New Jersey’s first seaside resort, which had been slowly overtaken by the sea until it disappeared completely. This was a month before the election. The “grab ’em by the pussy” tape had just broken, it was pouring rain, the city was on the verge of defaulting on its debts, and 2,000 casino workers were about to lose their jobs. At the time — my clothes soaking wet, falling asleep in a Super 8 to the sound of Scottie Nell Hughes on CNN — it was hard to understand what Lykins was saying as anything other than a metaphor for the country. I missed the larger menace and focused on the immediate. Trump was elected obviously, but Tucker’s Island wasn’t a figurative threat; it was a very straightforward story about what happens to coastal communities when the water moves in. Read more…
This week, we’re sharing stories from Wright Thompson, Fred Kaplan, Tori Marlan, Casey Gerald, and Sarah Everts.
Wright Thompson | The Atlantic | July 22, 2021 | 7,350 words
“In 1955, just past daybreak, a Chevrolet truck pulled up to an unmarked building. A 14-year-old child was in the back. Hi name was Emmett Till.”
Fred Kaplan | New York Review of Books | July 1, 2021 | 3,828
“The most complete account we are likely to get of the deceptions and duplicities that led to war leaves some crucial mysteries unsolved.”
Tori Marlan| Capital Daily | July 14, 2021 | 6,687 words
“His last purchases—beer, cigarettes, pot—occurred 18 years ago, he says, on his 31st birthday. He claims he hasn’t spent any money since. It’s true, his friends have told me. No money at all.”
Casey Gerald | Texas Monthly | July 19, 2020 | 10,772 words
“On the eve of his third album release, the Grammy-winning artist talks with unparalleled candor about the toll of stardom—and how his best friends saved his life.”
Sarah Everts | The Walrus | July 14, 2021 | 4,999 words
“It’s strong reactions like mine to jar fifteen that rouse belief in human sex pheromones, odorous chemicals that catalyze copulation. Insects have them, amphibians have them, mammals have them, so why wouldn’t we?”
“Now, as mackerel populations dwindle, a fish once taken for granted has stepped into a complicated spotlight, with people wondering if their decline can be reversed, or if—as once-abundant species like the Atlantic cod have done before them—mackerel will slip away for good.”