Category Archives: Science

Sara Dosa: FIRE OF LOVE

Sara Dosa wrote, directed and produced the extraordinary documentary, FIRE OF LOVE. It premiered at this year’s Sundance Festival as the Day One film in the US Documentary Competition, & won the Jonathan Oppenheimer Editing Award for Erin Casper & Jocelyne Chaput’s superb editing, as well as raves from critics. Her work has won a Peabody Award for AUDRIE & DAISY and an Emmy Award for REMASTERED: TRICKY DICK AND THE MAN IN BLACK.

National Geographic Films acquired FIRE OF LOVE for release in 2022. It screens at the Mendocino Film Festival audiences on June 3rd & 4th at the Coast Cinemas.

FIRE OF LOVE recounts the love between, and work of, two young French volcanologists, Katia and Maurice Kraffts, whose courageous exploration and documentation of volcanoes revolutionized our understanding of Earth processes. They dedicated their lives to trying to answer questions like “what forms & re-forms the world.” and “What is it that makes the Earth’s heart beat, her blood flow?”

They were one in their obsession with volcanoes, but they were complementary in their approaches and division of labor, which certainly advanced the success of their work. When asked if they were the only volcanologist couples in one of their many media appearances, Maurice said he “doesn’t think there are any other couples, & if there are, I pity them, because it’s very hard for volcanologists to live together – it’s volcanic…. We erupt often.”

FIRE OF LOVE is dedicated to the 43 people who lost their lives on Mt. Unzen on June, 3, 1991, which is when Katia and Maurice Krafft were finally consumed by that eruption they were studying.

You can hear our 2015 interview with Gillen D’Arcy Wood about his book, TAMBORA: THE ERUPTION THAT CHANGED THE WORLD here: https://forthright.media/2022/05/25/gillen-darcy-wood-tambora-the-eruption-that-changed-the-world/

Why Was the Tonga Eruption So Massive? Scientists Have New Clues https://www.wired.com/story/why-was-the-tonga-eruption-so-massive-scientists-have-new-clues/?utm_source=pocket-newtab

Gillen D’Arcy Wood – TAMBORA: The Eruption That Changed the World

This interview with Gillen D’Arcy Wood was originally broadcast on June 10, 2015. His book, TAMBORA: THE ERUPTION THAT CHANGED THE WORLD, had just been published by Princeton University Press.

“Out of sight and out of mind, Tambora was the volcanic, stealth bomber of the early 19th century. Be it the retching cholera victim in Calcutta, the starving peasant children of Yunnan, China or County Tyrone, Ireland, the hopeful explorer of a North West Passage through the Arctic Ocean, or the bankrupt land speculator in Baltimore, the world’s residents were oblivious to the volcanic drivings of their fate.”

In 2015, it was 200 years after Tambora erupted cataclysmically with extremely dire global consequences. What can we learn from this event as we face our own challenges in a rapidly changing climate?

Gillen D’Arcy Wood is a professor of English and an environmental historian at the U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he directs The Sustainability Studies Initiative in the Humanities. Gillen D’Arcy Wood has written extensively on the cultural and environmental history of the 19th century, and is the author of The Shock of the Real: Romanticism and Visual Culture, 1760-1860 (Palgrave, 2001), Romanticism and Music Culture in Britain, 1770-1840: Virtue and Virtuosity (Cambridge UP, 2010), an historical novel, Hosack’s Folly (Other Press, 2005).

Gustavo Vazquez KEEPER OF CORN

Indigenous artisans, cooks and farmers tell us this story (in Spanish and in their own languages) about the origins of indigenous corn and how their ancestors have guided the evolution of seeds from the dawn of agriculture to the 21st century; a collective effort that spans more than 350 generations.

To their voices are added those of community leaders, scientists, cooks and many others whose knowledge and activism are committed not only to the defense of food sovereignty and genetic integrity, diversity and the collective property of indigenous seeds, but also for the defense of an enduring cultural legacy and way of life.

Filmmaker and Chair of the FIlm & Digital Media Department at UC Santa Cruz , Gustavo Vazquez, brings us to Oaxaca to experience the wisdom of various indigenous communities, as they explain that “Corn was not domesticated by man – Man was domesticated by corn.”

Professors Ignacio Chapela (UC Berkeley) and Alan Bennett (UC Davis) discuss the merits and dangers of genetically modified organisms, and the characteristics of different landraces of corn that have co-evolved with the people of Oaxaca – continuing co-evolution vs. exploitation for patenting and profit.

Susana Harp, Senator from Oaxaca, works to protect the heritage and health of her region, and to respect the validity of their approach. “Corn & its surrounding rituals are tied to the cosmology of the indigenous people – by extension, the essence of being Mexican, linking our lives to corn.”

Kristen Iversen FULL BODY BURDEN:Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats

In this interview with Kristen Iversen from June 27, 2012, we learn about the history and legacy of the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Site, located 15 miles northwest of Denver, CO. Iversen grew up in nearby Arvada, and worked at the plant.

The recent catastrophic fires in Superior and Louisville, CO, brought it to mind, since Superior butts right up against and downwind from the Rocky Flats site, and Louisville butts right up against Superior. On the day of the fire, December 30, 2021, winds were clocked at Rocky Flats at 115 miles per hour. But beyond that, as Kristen Iversen tells us, those winds had been blowing east from the plutonium contaminated site for 6 decades.

Local residents protested the moral and physical dangers at Rocky Flats, as well as proposed real estate developments along its borders, which were nonetheless built, in spite of the scientific findings of plutonium contamination and strong, local resistance, and which have now been utterly destroyed by the fires.

An aerial view of one of the Boulder County neighborhoods that burned to the ground on Thursday. Photo: Hart Van Denburg/AP/Shutterstock

It has been widely reported that abundant spring rains allowed the grasses to grow profusely, only to dry completely in the ensuing drought and unseasonably hot and dry Fall and early Winter. In the growing, those plants absorbed plutonium, known to have been blown there from the Rocky Flats Weapon Lab site during those six decades. The fire vaporized whatever plutonium had been taken up by that tinder dry plant material, blowing it in unknown amounts and unknown distances to the east. I have not found any reports mentioning this aspect of the fires, much less considering the fallout from it, in the most literal sense.

Perhaps this post can be a beginning of that consideration.

Articles referenced or pertinent to this story:

The Return of the Urban Firestorm https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2022/01/colorado-saw-the-return-of-the-urban-firestorm.html?utm_source=pocket-newtab

The Rocky Flats Grand Jury’s Files Have Gone Missing https://www.westword.com/news/rocky-flats-grand-jurors-were-silenced-and-now-files-are-gone-11430085

Update Regarding Rocky Flats Hot Particle Study https://www.rockyflatsnuclearguardianship.org/single-post/2020/04/09/Update-Regarding-Rocky-Flats-Hot-Particle-Study

Plutonium Inventory Differences at the Rocky Flats Plant & Their Relationship to Environmental Releases https://nuke.fas.org/cochran/nuc_11229601a_178.pdf

It’s alive: The groundbreaking research on the microbes in wildfire smoke https://grist.org/grist-video/its-alive-the-groundbreaking-research-on-the-microbes-in-wildfire-smoke/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_campaign=weekly

Andy Norman MENTAL IMMUNITY: Infectious Ideas, Mind-Parasites, and the Search for a Better Way to Think

Andy Norman, Ph.D., directs the Humanism Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University and is the founder of CIRCE, the Cognitive Immunology Research Collaborative. His book, Mental Immunity: Infectious Ideas, Mind-Parasites, and the Search for a Better Way to Think, just published by HarperCollins, lays out the conceptual foundations of cognitive immunology—the emerging science of mental immune health.

We spoke with Andy Norman on June 14, 2021.

No one wanted to read’ his book on pandemic psychology – then Covid hit https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/aug/19/book-psychology-pandemics-steven-taylor

Suzanne Simard FINDING THE MOTHER TREE: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest

University of British Columbia Professor of Forest Ecology, Dr. Suzanne Simard, is a pioneer on the frontier of plant communication and intelligence. Her decades of in-the-field-experimental research have revolutionized our scientific understanding of forests, elucidating how trees, living side by side for hundreds of years, have evolved, how they perceive one another, learn and adapt their behaviors, recognize neighbors and remember the past; how they have agency about the future; elicit warnings and mount defenses, compete and cooperate with one another with sophistication, characteristics ascribed to human intelligence, traits that are the essence of civil societies–and at the center of it all,  the Mother Trees: the mysterious, powerful forces that connect and sustain the others that surround them.

Suzanne Simard’s book, FINDING THE MOTHER TREE: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest, was published by Knopf on May 4, 2021.
We spoke together on April 27th.

We end the program with a recent piece commissioned by the Intermountain Opera Company composed by Eric Funk, Requiem for a Forest, Op. 168. It is performed by Roots in the Sky. A video adaptation by Thomas Thomas is available on https://bozemanarts-live.com/event/requiem-for-a-forest/

Requiem for a Forest

In summer heat
And warming world
Storms whip up,
Lightening rolls,
Sparks run to earth.
The wind turns
Through the mountains,
Forests burn.

Fire ends,
Yet fire begins.
As mountains die,
Cones open.
Mors stupebit
et natura
Cum resurgent
Creatura.

Now we must learn
How to live here,
Where fire season
Burns all year.
Blackened earth
With green renew,
May the fires
wake us too.

Friendly fungi help forests fight climate changehttps://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-61787248

USING SCIENCE & CELTIC WISDOM TO SAVE TREES (and SOULS) https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/24/climate/celtic-wisdom-trees-climate.html

Plants Feel Pain & Might Even See https://nautil.us/issue/104/harmony/plants-feel-pain-and-might-even-see?utm_source=pocket-newtab

Biden’s Climate Chops Face A Big Test On Old-Growth Forests https://www.huffpost.com/entry/biden-climate-old-growth-forests_n_60a41b78e4b03e1dd38fc528

‘Forests are not renewable’: the felling of Sweden’s ancient trees https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2021/apr/16/forests-felling-swedens-ancient-trees-biodiversity-sami-environment

USDA May Allow Genetically Modified Trees to Be Released Into the Wild https://truthout.org/articles/usda-may-allow-genetically-modified-trees-to-be-released-into-the-wild/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=da19aa22-8134-413f-a72f-01b72dfd5bb1

‘War in the woods’: activists blockade Vancouver Island in bid to save ancient trees https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/09/canada-logging-old-growth-trees-vancouver-island

Pacheedaht First Nation chiefs in Canada tell anti-logging protesters to leave their lands https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/14/canada-logging-blockade-first-nations-pacheedaht

It’s only natural: the push to give rivers, mountains and forests legal rights https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/apr/01/its-only-natural-the-push-to-give-rivers-mountains-and-forests-legal-rights

Rob Dunn DELICIOUS: The Evolution of Flavor and How It Made Us Human

Returning to Forthright Radio is Rob Dunn, who is a biology Professor in the Department of Applied Ecology at North Carolina State University. He conducts a Public Science Lab, which engages citizen scientists around the world via the website, robdunnlab.com.

His latest book, DELICIOUS: THE EVOLUTION OF FLAVOR AND HOW IT MADE US HUMAN, has just been published by Princeton University Press, and even though that sounds super academic, Rob writes for the general audience in a humorous and easily understood way. He is the science teacher I wish I had had in high school. To be concise, Rob Dunn is fun. We spoke with him on April 5, 2021.

Links to articles/events relevant to this interview:

‘Sophisticated’: ancient faeces shows humans enjoyed beer and blue cheese 2,700 years ago https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/oct/14/sophisticated-ancient-faeces-shows-humans-enjoyed-beer-and-blue-cheese-2700-years-ago

Politics & Prose event with Kim Wejendorp and Rob Dunn https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-ima-st_mig&ei=UTF-8&hsimp=yhs-st_mig&hspart=ima&p=%22Rob+Dunn%22&type=ff_q3000_A0IR7_set_bfrq#id=1&vid=1870fdb4e435f45ca537bd2bec62373c&action=click

Hunting for truffles in the Iraqi desert – in pictures https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2021/mar/26/hunting-for-truffles-in-the-iraqi-desert-in-pictures

The rice of the sea: how a tiny grain could change the way humanity eats https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/09/sea-rice-eelgrass-marine-grain-chef-angel-leon-marsh-climate-crisis

13,000-year-old brewery discovered in Israel, the oldest in the world https://www.timesofisrael.com/13000-year-old-brewery-discovered-in-israel-the-oldest-in-the-world/

Carl Zimmer LIFE’S EDGE: The Search for What It Means to Be Alive

In addition to writing for The New York Times, Discover, National Geographic, the Atlantic, Wired and others, Carl Zimmer is the author of 14 books on science, from his first in 1998: AT THE WATER’S EDGE: FISH WITH FINGERS, WHALES WITH LEGS, AND HOW LIFE CAME ASHORE AND THEN WENT BACK TO SEA to his latest book, which we discuss today, LIFE’S EDGE: THE SEARCH FOR WHAT IT MEANS TO BE ALIVE, just published by Dutton.

He claims to be the only writer after whom a species of tapeworm has been named, Acanthobothrium zimmeri. We spoke with him on March 15, 2021.

We end with poems read by San Francisco poet, publisher and founder of City Lights Books, Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He died just two months shy of his 102nd birthday on February 22, 2021.

A Tapeworm To Call My Own https://www.discovermagazine.com/health/a-tapeworm-to-call-my-own

What Is Life? Its Vast Diversity Defies Easy Definition. https://www.quantamagazine.org/what-is-life-its-vast-diversity-defies-easy-definition-20210309/?utm_source=pocket-newtab

The Surprising Origins of Life’s Complexity https://www.quantamagazine.org/the-surprising-origins-of-lifes-complexity-20130716

Meet the Sea Slugs That Chop Off Their Heads and Grow New Bodies https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/08/science/decapitated-sea-slugs.html?surface=home-discovery-vi-prg&fellback=false&req_id=1216872&algo=identity&variant=no-exp&imp_id=659601079&action=click&module=Science%20%20Technology&pgtype=Homepage

The Earth’s first breathable atmosphere https://earthsky.org/earth/the-earths-first-breathable-atmosphere

Tardigrades: nature’s great survivors https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/mar/20/tardigrades-natures-great-survivors

Margaret Klein Salamon – FACING THE CLIMATE EMERGENCY: How to Transform Yourself with Climate Truth

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Margaret Klein Salamon is the founder and Executive Director of The Climate Mobilization, a volunteer-powered organization that is working to initiate a WWII-scale mobilization to rapidly transform our economy to protect humanity and the living world. In that role she has helped catalyze a burgeoning worldwide climate emergency movement. More than 1,500 cities and counties around the world have now passed climate emergency declarations based on the climate emergency policy framework that The Climate Mobilization has developed and championed.

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Margaret has doctorate in clinical psychology and a BA in social anthropology. She is the author of The Transformative Power of Climate Truth and Leading the Public into Emergency Mode. Her latest book, Facing the Climate Emergency: How to Transform Yourself with Climate Truth, has just been published by New Society Publishers.

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Links to articles referenced in this interview:

Could a green new deal turn South Korea from climate villain to model?  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/23/could-a-green-new-deal-turn-south-korea-from-climate-villain-to-model

EU pledges to raise €20bn a year to boost biodiversity    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/may/20/eu-pledges-20bn-a-year-on-boosting-biodiversity-aoe

Lockdowns trigger dramatic fall in global carbon emissions   https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/may/19/lockdowns-trigger-dramatic-fall-global-carbon-emissions

‘This Is Only the Beginning’: JPMorgan Chase Faces Investor Revolt Over Financing Climate Destruction      https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/05/19/only-beginning-jpmorgan-chase-faces-investor-revolt-over-financing-climate?cd-origin=rss&utm_term=AO&utm_campaign=Daily%20Newsletter&utm_content=email&utm_source=Daily%20Newsletter&utm_medium=Email

Rural Landowners, Farmers, and Conservation Groups Celebrate Court Victory Halting Risky Oil and Gas Giveaway of 150,000 Acres of Montana Public Lands             https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2020/news-rural-landowners-farmers-and-conservation-groups-celebrate-court-victory-halting-risky-oil-and-gas-giveaway?utm_source=crm&utm_medium=email&utm_term=newsletter&utm_campaign=200517_ForTheRecord_May2020&utm_content=ReadMore&curation=newsletter&emci=62705098-ad94-ea11-86e9-00155d03b5dd&emdi=a2549500-4d98-ea11-86e9-00155d03b5dd&ceid=75298

In a First, Renewable Energy Is Poised to Eclipse Coal in U.S.  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/13/climate/coronavirus-coal-electricity-renewables.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=Climate%20and%20Environment

‘Cleaner and greener’: Covid-19 prompts world’s cities to free public space of cars      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/18/cleaner-and-greener-covid-19-prompts-worlds-cities-to-free-public-space-of-cars

‘One Crisis Doesn’t Stop Because Another Starts’: 2,000+ Kids’ Shoes Form Climate/Covid Protest in London            https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/05/18/one-crisis-doesnt-stop-because-another-starts-2000-kids-shoes-form-climatecovid?cd-origin=rss&utm_term=AO&utm_campaign=Daily%20Newsletter&utm_content=email&utm_source=Daily%20Newsletter&utm_medium=Email

Climate Campaigners Applaud Biden on Vow to Pull Plug on Keystone XL Permit   https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/05/18/climate-campaigners-applaud-biden-vow-pull-plug-keystone-xl-permit?cd-origin=rss&utm_term=AO&utm_campaign=Daily%20Newsletter&utm_content=email&utm_source=Daily%20Newsletter&utm_medium=Email

Andrew Cuomo Rejects Controversial Gas Pipeline, Handing Climate Activists A Victory            https://www.huffpost.com/entry/cuomo-williams-pipeline_n_5ebdbe5dc5b6c9c1874157a6

US fossil fuel giants set for a coronavirus bailout bonanza       https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/may/12/us-fossil-fuel-companies-coronavirus-bailout-oil-coal-fracking-giants-bond-scheme

Trump dismantles environmental protections under cover of coronavirus    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/10/trump-environmental-blitzkrieg-coronavirus

Trump seizes on pandemic to speed up opening of public lands to industry   https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/30/public-lands-sale-trump-coronavirus-environmental-regulations

It Took A Pandemic To Prove Individual Actions Alone Won’t Solve The Climate Crisis          https://www.huffpost.com/entry/coronavirus-climate-change-individual-actions-fossil-fuels_n_5eb2adb9c5b6ae37c13bbb3a

Climate Change Is a Health Crisis, & Doctors Aren’t Prepared    https://www.huffpost.com/entry/climate-change-health-effects-medical-schools_n_5eb40a87c5b652c56473b939

Gaia Vince TRANSCENDENCE: How Humans Evolved Through Fire, Language, Beauty & Time

Gaia Vince is an environmental journalist, author and broadcaster. Her work focuses largely on the interplay between humans and the planetary environment. Her latest book, TRANSCENDENCE: How Humans Evolved Through Fire, Language, Beauty & Time, was published in the United States in January, 2020 by Basic Books.

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Her first book, Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet We Made, won the 2015 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books, making her the first woman to win the prize outright. That book discussed the Anthropocene, the geological epoch that began when human activities started to have a significant global impact on Earth’s ecosystems.

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She has held senior editorial posts at Nature and New Scientist, and her writing has featured in newspapers and magazines including the Guardian, The Times and Scientific American. She also writes and presents science programs for radio and television. Her research takes her across the world: she has visited more than 60 countries. She currently lives in London, where we spoke with her via Skype.

In addition to fire and language, Gaia Vince asserts that beauty was a powerful force in human evolution. She cites artifacts such as the “Lion Man”, the oldest known zoomorphic sculpture and uncontested example of figurative art, between 35,000 and 40,000 years old. It was carved of mammoth ivory using a flint knife and stands 31.1cm tall, 5.6cm wide and 5.9cm thick.

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Recent articles pertinent to this interview:

Cave find shows Neanderthals collected seafood, scientists say   https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/mar/26/cave-find-shows-neanderthals-collected-seafood-scientists-say

Trail of African bling reveals 50,000-year-old social network  https://www.theguardian.com/science/2022/jan/16/trail-of-african-bling-reveals-50000-year-old-social-network

The Fight to Preserve a 44,000-year-old Painting    https://www.1843magazine.com/features/the-fight-to-preserve-a-44000yearold-painting?utm_source=pocket-newtab

Fossil hunters find evidence of 555m-year-old human relative  https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/mar/23/fossil-ikaria-wariootia-bilateral-organism-human-relative

El Silbo Gomero     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtEovudxXVE

Whistled Turkish helps speak across valleys                                       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjcVLLdPCoU

500,000-year-old shell engraved by Homo erectus challenges previous beliefs about human ancestors    https://www.ancient-origins.net/news-evolution-human-origins/500000-year-old-shell-engraved-homo-erectus-challenges-beliefs-020122

Whistled language of the island of La Gomera, the Silbo Gomero  (UNESCO) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgEmSb0cKBg

Big Gods Came After the Rise of Civilizations, Not Before, Finds Study Using Huge Historical Database         https://theconversation.com/big-gods-came-after-the-rise-of-civilisations-not-before-finds-study-using-huge-historical-database-113801

Rift Valley Drifters written/sung by Roy Zimmerman                           https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqy44OsmwLo

Why it’s so hard to be rational about Covid-19      https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200331-covid-19-how-will-the-coronavirus-change-the-world