Feb 6, 2020 /

Climate litigation is working — except in the U.S.

As the 50th anniversary of Earth Day approaches, environmental awareness and the need to address the impact of global warming appears to be at an all-time high. Politicians around the world are making references to a “green new deal,” and the world’s most famous teenager isn’t a musician — she’s the 17-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for the second consecutive year. 

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Feb 3, 2020 /


Two people seated at a table with chopsticks in their hands. On the table in front of them are various bowls of food, some containing cooked white rice.

For us, rice was life.
There’s a Cantonese saying, 食咗飯未 (siik jor fan mei) – have you eaten rice yet? It is a standard greeting between family, friends, and sometimes even between strangers. It means, “Hey, how are you? Are you well?” Rice, and the act of cooking rice, of sitting down with a bowl of rice and eating it, was an act of care. 

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Jan 27, 2020 /

In Ovens Green Our Mother Bakes: The Rights of Nature Movement

A sunrise is seen across a small body of water. Tree branches with leaves are in-view obscuring the sunset. A green field and sandy shoreline are in the foreground.

During the piercingly cold snow days we just had, I thought a lot about sun, and home. Home for me is the San Francisco Bay Area, where I was first a volunteer and later a research technician in Dr. Kathy Boyer’s wetland ecology lab.
As we walked through a tidal marsh or waded through eelgrass beds, I’d often notice my lab mates saying things like “Oh, this eelgrass looks happy!” or “This pickleweed looks stressed.” Not because I wasn’t thinking similarly, but because in the STEM fields we’re conditioned to Be Objective and resist emotion or anthropomorphization. 

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Jan 21, 2020 /

(Aqua)Culture Wars

Four net pens protrude from the water with snow covered hills in the background. The water surface is calm and flat.

Depending on who you ask, offshore aquaculture is either key to meeting food demands in a growing world and shrinking the US trade deficit, or it will catastrophically destroy ecosystems and livelihoods. Most government agencies involved in managing offshore aquaculture support its development, but most of the people it would directly affect outside of the industry oppose it.
Sounds tricky, but not quite like the culture war you mentioned in the title. 

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Jan 13, 2020 /

Ushering in 2020: The Green New Decade

According to the most recent Climate Change in the American Mind report, the majority of Americans (59%) say they “rarely” or “never” discuss global warming with family and friends, while the remaining 41% say they do so “occasionally” or “often.” Regardless of which camp you currently fall into, with climate change on the agenda of so many Presidential candidates, it’s probably a good idea to steady yourself for some climate small talk. 

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Dec 9, 2019 /

Eating for yourself and the planet: Get you a diet that can do both!

How much time do you spend eating? According to the USDA, the average American spends about 1,800 days of their life eating. With this time eating comes consistent, daily decisions about what to select from our pantry or buy at the grocery store. Additionally, we are inundated with food-related information from physicians, celebrities, and popular health media that complicate our many decisions. 

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Dec 2, 2019 /

Tribes lead the way to revive regional salmon runs

We are all salmon people, and we know what we need to do.
Such was the message of this year’s Billy Frank Jr. Pacific Salmon Summit, a day-long gathering focused on achieving consensus for immediate and bold action to restore the Pacific region’s diminishing salmon runs. The summit, hosted by Squaxin Island Tribe on November 5 in Shelton, Wash., was a follow-up to last year’s inaugural convening of a broad coalition of groups working toward a consensus to accelerate salmon recovery in the region.  

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Nov 27, 2019 /

Where does your recycling go?

In Jenjarom, a small palm plantation town a few kilometres outside of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the smell of burnt plastic crept across the town every night, entering the homes of residents, causing them to wake up choking for fresh air. After months of sleepless nights, a few local residents decided to investigate the source of the smell, forming the Kuala Langat Environmental Action Association (KLAA). 

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Nov 25, 2019 /

Seattle Aquarium Keeps Pace in an Age of Change

To many of us, going to the Seattle Aquarium may be a way to fill a rainy afternoon, a chance to get a closer look at a particularly fascinating marine creature, or perhaps an opportunity to learn something new about the aquatic world that surrounds us. But to Jim Wharton, a visit to the Aquarium represents an opportunity to be inspired–inspired to empathize with marine creatures and to take action on their behalf.  

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Nov 21, 2019 /

A Different Type of Holiday Wasted

What’s getting wasted this holiday season — other than your great uncle Earl? Turns out, a lot of food. In King County, 33% of household waste is food. That’s an average of 390 pounds per household per year! When 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from food production, reducing food waste would also help lower emissions and curb climate change. 

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Nov 18, 2019 /

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire: a look at the climate change fingerprint on the California fires

This fall, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez retweeted a picture of the Vallejo Fire in Northern California, captioning it, “This is what climate change looks like.” She is far from the only one making this point. A few hours later that day, the Los Angeles Times ran an editorial: Climate change has set California on fire. Are you paying attention? 
At the time of writing, California was in the midst of another devastating fire season; there were ten active fires burning across the state. 

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Nov 14, 2019 /

E-waste not, want not

Happy launch season!
It’s that time of year again when your favorite tech companies announce new products that make your perfectly good phone from just a year ago feel oppressively obsolete.
This quarter, Apple released a new MacBook Pro; Google flaunted its new line of Pixel smartphones, and Microsoft announced a foldable phone with a physical keyboard. Still waiting for Levi’s to announce compatible 510’s.  

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Nov 11, 2019 /

Saving the Planet: Can You DIY?

Seven years ago I stood in a huge office park on the shores of San Francisco Bay, feeling alone despite the thirty other people who were with me holding signs, chanting, or at times blocking traffic. Fighting down my natural aversion to being on camera and swallowing my embarrassment at the sound of my own voice, I used a megaphone to tell Cargill and DMB Associates that their presence in my hometown was not welcome. 

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Nov 8, 2019 /

This is Bananas: Packaging and waste in the produce industry

Every time I open my garbage to throw something away I hear a little voice in my head that whispers… waste. Can I reuse this Ziploc bag again? Is it worth trying to clean the raw chicken out of it? Are bottle caps recyclable? What do I do with the pizza box?!
To help cope with this eco-anxiety, I’ve started following Instagram accounts that highlight plastic-free living and ways to reduce waste in everyday life- content like upcycled reusable produce bags, plastic free toothbrushes, and bar shampoo. 

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Nov 4, 2019 /

How Will the 2019 Changes to the Endangered Species Act Impact Wildlife?

The national bird of the United States is the bald eagle, a symbol of freedom and power that can invoke an unparalleled sense of pride in Americans. The bald eagle is a spiritual symbol and charismatic bird, yet it was once almost driven to extinction. Contributors to the bird’s decline included: loss of habitat due to development, illegal fatal shootings from farmers who believed that bald eagles were a threat to livestock, and post-WW2 use of the agricultural pesticide Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) which contaminated the eagle’s food source and affected the strength of its eggshells.  

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Oct 28, 2019 /

Predicting Future Oceans to Predict my Own Future?

Thermos filled to the brim with steaming coffee, my mind buzzed with the day’s tasks of collecting people’s powerpoints, compiling presenter and panel bios, and attempting to orchestrate a smooth transition between presentations. This scramble of thoughts, as my heels relentlessly clambered up and down auditorium steps, was not how I initially envisioned the conference to be. Nevertheless, it was a valuable experience that helped me grow, not just as a researcher, but as a member of society. 

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Oct 21, 2019 /

Our Summer of Discontent

In the spring during his interview class, professor Marc Miller would always stroll into the classroom, look you dead in the eye, and ask, “Are you excited for the summer?”
We were excited. We’d planned on doing thesis work, going hiking and diving, and doing all the things normal twenty-somethings in grad school would do. Then it all crumbled. And we weren’t excited anymore.  

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Oct 14, 2019 /

SMEA Summer: Are we really “gonna need a bigger boat”?

Cape Cod, Massachusetts is known for a lot of things; sandy beaches, overfilled lobster rolls, and countless Kennedy tragedies. However, over the last few years, this summer vacation destination has become known for something else: sharks. Although sharks are not unheard of in New England, the last time sharks became  synonymous with Cape Cod was in the mid 1970s. With last year’s shark-related death and almost 300 Great Whites visiting each summer, the word “shark” is on everyone’s mind throughout the Cape. 

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Oct 7, 2019 /

My Summer at Friday Harbor Labs

In 2014, 80 feet underwater in the Galápagos, surrounded by hammerhead sharks and black-striped salema, I experienced a moment of emotional clarity that sparked my desire to protect this planet. This underwater moment, with all its unimaginable curiosities and bursting biodiversity, affirmed my commitment to promoting marine conservation over my lifetime. 
In the years since, I’ve wandered the world leading wilderness trips, writing stories for PBS NewsHour, substitute teaching, coaching tennis, working temp jobs, and fumbling through all the responsibilities and obstacles that come with being a twenty-something — the clarity of my life’s mission and my confidence that I could make a meaningful difference in the world becoming faded and fuzzed along the way. 

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Sep 30, 2019 /

Meet Brittany Hoedemaker, Currents Editor-In-Chief

For the first Currents blog post of the school year, Sallie Lau, the managing editor, interviews Brittany Hoedemaker, the editor-in-chief, about the importance of science communication, what makes good sci-comm, and what readers can expect out of Currents this year.
Who is Brittany?
I’m a second year SMEAgol and the editor-in-chief of Currents! Perhaps more importantly, I’m also a golden retriever enthusiast, a native Seattleite, and a shark lover. 

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