Author: Allison Guy

cli fi covers
Anthropocene

Visualizing the Tropes of ‘Climate Fiction’

As fears about global warming become ever more culturally ingrained, “climate fiction” has gone from a once-fringe genre to a standard literary device.

Cli-Fi, as it’s abbreviated, is set in a near or long-term future where the fallout from global warming, be it flooding or mass extinctions, is not only apparent, but an aspect of everyday life. Spanning genres from literary fiction to thrillers, Cli-Fi acts as a barometer of our own ecological anxieties.

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egyptian polio victim
Back to the Tribe

How Modern Sanitation Gave Us Polio

For most of history, poliomyelitis was a relatively unremarkable disease – it caused paralysis and occasionally death, but only in a tiny fraction of those infected. It was essentially unknown in infants and adults, and usually only caused mild symptoms in children. This all changed in the early 1900s, when the disease mysteriously transformed into an epidemic, killing many and maiming many more, even among the supposedly ‘protected’ populations of adults and babies.

Deadly recurrences of polio became a fact of life in developed countries, particularly in cities during the summer. Movie theaters, beaches and swimming pools were closed; families fled to the countryside when the weather got warm. Clearly something had changed, but what could cause a mild disease to turn into a killer all but overnight? The secret lies, paradoxically, in our better understanding of sanitation.

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gut microbiome
Anthropocene

Our Tribal Gut Bacteria Are Disappearing (And Why We’re Getting Fat)

It’s an old axe that you are what you eat, but a growing body of evidence suggests that, in terms of our gut bacteria, it’s really true. Recent research shows that the standard ‘Western’ diet high in animal fat, sugars, and refined carbohydrates fundamentally alters the bacterial ecosystem in our intestines. The bacteria that thrive in the house that McDonald’s built are not only associated with obesity, but may actually excrete waste compounds that cause obesity.

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ecological collapse of easter island
Anthropocene

A More Interesting, More Depressing Theory of Easter Island’s Downfall

Easter Island has long been used as a parable for environmental destruction: a once-mighty civilization brought low by its wanton overuse of natural resources. The islanders cut down all their trees for farming and silly stone heads, so the story goes, and reduced the paradise of Rapa Nui to a windswept grassland. However, a new theory about the collapse of Easter Island challenges this traditional assumption. It takes the blame away from humans and puts it on rats.

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new york city dogs hunt for rats
Back to the Tribe

New York’s Dogs Hunt for Dangerous Game: City Rats

Before the advent of broadcast sports or animal rights legislation, a night at the pub used to mean one thing: watching small terriers snap the spines of dozens, if not hundreds, of rats. Sporting men placed bets on how many rats a dog could kill in a set period of time. Nowadays, dog breeds bred to hunt rats, rabbits, badgers don’t get much of a chance to exercise their killer instincts. The Ryders Alley Trencher-fed Society (RATS) in New York, however, have figured out how to harness their dog’s inborn talents in order to make a (small) dent in the city’s rodent problem.

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antibiotic resistence
Anthropocene

Forward to the Dark Ages: Our Horrifying Post-Antibiotic Future

Before the 1940s, the most simple, everyday maladies – a bug bite, a broken bone, a sore throat – could result in swift and sudden death, cutting down people even in the prime of their lives. This was the era before antibiotics became a cornerstone of modern medicine. Now, thanks to overprescription of antibiotics, the massive overuse of antibiotics in factory-style farming, and stalled antibiotic research, we’re rapidly returning to the pre-penicillin era. Bacteria have evolved resistance to our best and, right now, our only, weapons.

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Diagram of the steps in making in vitro meat
Food Technology

Grossed Out by Lab-Grown Meat? Here’s 7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Be

Many people find the idea of eating in vitro meat – animal muscle tissue grown in a lab – to be creepy, unnatural or downright disgusting. Maybe it’s the association with medical science, or maybe it’s the fact that a happy cow in a grassy meadow seems far more friendly that something scraped from a bioreactor. It turns out, however, that in vitro meat is a lot less unnatural than we think it is, and that “normal” food is far more bizarre than it seems. Here’s the top seven reasons why you shouldn’t be grossed out by lab-grown meat:

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