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News 04.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 04.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@pinkines
News 04.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@dariabydasha
News 04.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@dariabydasha

This April, I was feeling good. I’d figured out the public pool’s lane-reservation system and swam several times a week. I couldn’t wait to write new stories once my kids went back to school. With vaccines on their way, I even made travel plans.

Three months later, I’m in a slump. The pool stopped requiring reservations, but I haven’t been since June. Between Covid-19 variants and Western wildfires, I’m not fired up about a family road trip. And when my editor asked me to research a story about motivation, all I could think was: Ugh.

Motivation is the energy that gets us to take action — and I’m not the only one finding it hard to come by. Some of us might have full-on burnout after a year-plus of loss, grief and pandemic challenges. Others could feel more like I do — nothing’s terribly wrong, but we can’t quite find our spark. Whatever situation we’re in, a closer look at motivation might give us more fuel to move forward, both day-to-day and into an uncertain future.

As you look for your motivation, it helps to think of it falling into two categories, said Stefano Di Domenico, a motivation researcher who teaches at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

News 04.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 04.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In the 1890s, the biggest cities of the western world faced a mounting problem. Horse-drawn vehicles had been in use for thousands of years, and it was hard to imagine life without them. But as the number of such vehicles increased during the 19th century, the drawbacks of using horses in densely populated cities were becoming ever more apparent.

In particular, the accumulation of horse manure on the streets, and the associated stench, were impossible to miss. By the 1890s, about 300,000 horses were working on the streets of London, and more than 150,000 in New York City. Each of these horses produced an average of 10kg of manure a day, plus about a litre of urine. Collecting and removing thousands of tonnes of waste from stables and streets proved increasingly difficult.

The problem had been building up for decades. A newspaper editor in New York City said in 1857 that “with the exception of a very few thoroughfares, all the streets are one mass of reeking, disgusting filth, which in some places is piled to such a height as to render them almost impassable to vehicles”. As well as filling the air with a terrible stench, the abundance of horse manure turned streets into muddy cesspools whenever it rained. An eyewitness account from London in the 1890s describes the “mud” (the accepted euphemism among prudish Victorians) that often flooded the Strand, one of the city’s main thoroughfares, as having the consistency of thick pea soup. Passing vehicles “would fling sheets of such soup – where not intercepted by trousers or skirts – completely across the pavement”, spattering and staining nearby houses and shop fronts. Manure collected from the streets was piled up at dumps dotted around major towns and cities. Huge piles of manure also built up next to stables and provided an attractive environment for flies.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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In the summer of 2019, Jeff Lowenfels told me, one of his friends successfully grew okra in Anchorage. Lowenfels could not believe it. The crop was shorthand for all the change he has witnessed since he moved to the city in the 1970s, a distance between past and present that he has measured in vegetables and fruits — from cabbage, snow peas and potatoes to tomatoes, pumpkins and now, incredibly, okra. “Holy crow!” he said. “We can grow anything!”

Lowenfels, a 72-year-old retired lawyer, has written several best-selling books on organic gardening and one on growing cannabis. He is a former president of the Garden Writers Association and was inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame in 2005; his personal website describes this as “the highest honor a garden writer can achieve.” Perhaps his most notable feat, though, is one of endurance. Lowenfels has written a gardening column for The Anchorage Daily News since November 1976. It is the country’s longest-running such column. In it, he gives advice: on the care and feeding of African violets; on the benefits of raking or not raking your lawn; on how to ward off hungry moose. He also observes. Gardening is fundamentally a local endeavor, an experiment in fitting plants to a specific soil and climate. For more than 40 years, Lowenfels has noted Alaskans’ successes with new plants, tracked the lengthening stretch of frost-free days and recorded the arrival of new horticultural pests.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

News 04.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 04.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The first quarter of the twenty-first century has been an uneasy time of rupture and anxiety, filled with historic challenges and opportunities. In that close to twenty-five-year span, the United States witnessed the ominous opening shot of September 11, followed by the seemingly unending Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the effort to control HIV/AIDS, the 2008 recession, the election of the first African American president, the legalization of same-sex marriage, the contentious reign of Donald Trump, the stepped-up restriction of immigrants, the #MeToo movement, Black Lives Matter, and the coronavirus pandemic, just to name a few major events. Intriguingly, the essay has blossomed during this time, in what many would deem an exceptionally good period for literary nonfiction—if not a golden one, then at least a silver: I think we can agree that there has been a remarkable outpouring of new and older voices responding to this perplexing moment in a form uniquely amenable to the processing of uncertainty.

When the century began, essays were considered box office poison; editors would sometimes disguise collections of the stuff by packaging them as theme-driven memoirs. All that has changed: a generation of younger readers has embraced the essay form and made their favorite authors into best sellers. We could speculate on the reasons for this growing popularity—the hunger for humane, authentic voices trying to get at least a partial grip on the truth in the face of so much political mendacity and information overload; the convenient, bite-size nature of essays that require no excessive time commitment; the rise of identity politics and its promotion of eloquent spokespersons. Rather than trying to figure out why it’s happening, what’s important is to chart the high points of this resurgence, and to account for the range of styles, subgenres, experimental approaches, and moral positions that characterize the contemporary American essay.

Of course, roping off a period like the year 2000 to the present and calling it “contemporary” is somewhat arbitrary, but one has to start somewhere. At least this artificial chronological box allows for the inclusion of older authors who made their mark in the twentieth century and had the temerity to keep producing significant work in the twenty-first (such as John McPhee, Joyce Carol Oates, Barry Lopez, Thomas Lynch). Just as set designers of period films make a mistake in choosing only articles of clothing or furnishings that were produced in that era, forgetting that we always live with the layered material objects of previous decades, so it would be wrong to restrict the literary flavor of an era to writers under forty. Indeed, what makes this period so interesting is the mélange of clashing generations and points of view. There are still tightly reasoned sequential essays being written in the classical mode, side by side with ones that resist that tidiness.

Read the rest of this article at: The Paris Review

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News 04.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On a windy afternoon in April, the landscape architect Kate Orff stood on the open walkway of a container crane, some eighty feet above the Red Hook Terminal, in Brooklyn, and the Buttermilk Channel, a tidal strait on the southeast side of Governors Island. Most places in New York City make it easy to avoid thinking about the rivers, canals, and ocean waters that form an aquatic thoroughfare for the global economy and surround the industrial corridors, office towers, and densely populated neighborhoods where millions of people have settled. This place is not one of them.

Orff, who is forty-nine, pushed back strands of ash-brown hair that had blown loose from her ponytail, and pointed out the busy navigation channels, which, for more than two centuries, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has dredged in order to keep them deep and fast. Then she pointed toward the steel-and-concrete barriers that separate the city from the harbor but that, in 2012, proved no match for Superstorm Sandy.

“I’m interested in reworking the edges,” Orff told me, squinting into the breeze. Farther west, along the Hudson River, we could make out the ports and cities in New Jersey where the risk of tidal flooding has more than doubled over the past generation, as sea levels have risen. Behind us were the Red Hook Houses, the largest public-housing complex in Brooklyn, with some twenty-five hundred units set on a peninsula, a former tidal marsh that will take on more and more water as the planet continues to warm.

“Before Buttermilk Channel was dredged, people used to walk from here to Governors Island at low tide,” she said. “There were oysters, tide pools, grasses, lots of colorful marine life, and they were a big part of New York’s coastal-protection system. They acted like breakwaters, absorbing wave energy and slowing the water before it hit the shore. We’ve spent the past one hundred years dredging out everything for shipping and hardening the edges. Now we have a different climate, and we need a different approach.”

A great deal of Orff’s work addresses the inescapable fact that the Atlantic Ocean is rising, and coming for the land. She’s the founder of the design firm scape, the director of the Urban Design Program at Columbia University, and the first landscape architect to win a MacArthur “genius” grant. She’s also at the forefront of an emerging approach to climate resilience that argues we should be building with nature, not just in nature. Its guiding principle is that “gray infrastructure”—the dikes, dams, and seawalls that modern societies use to contain and control water—is often insufficient, and sometimes destructive. Green infrastructure, by contrast, involves strategically deploying wetlands, dunes, mangrove forests, and reefs to reduce threats of catastrophic flooding and coastal erosion, while also revitalizing the land. This carefully designed “second nature,” the thinking goes, could be our second chance.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.