Gas the Planet

Originally appeared in The National.

How to Cool the Planet

by Jeff Goodell

Climate scientists agree: the planet is sick, and what ails it is an excess of carbon in the air. The accepted cure is to stop putting so much carbon in the air. This sounds like the unfunny joke about the patient who goes to the doctor and says, “It hurts when I do this” – to which the doctor replies, “So don’t do that.” In this case, “doing that” means living the blessed life of modern industrialised man – driving cars, flying in planes, eating meat – and the reaction of most of us modern industrialised men is to keep on doing that anyway.

Atlantic Monthly

Kabul, We Have a Problem

In the May 2010 Atlantic, I profile the great Abdulahad Momand.

Momand, 51 and now a resident of Germany, was born in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province. He is much like any other Afghan refugee, except that in the summer of 1988 he spent nine days in outer space.
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Leonard Lopate Show

Geo-engineering on Lopate

Today’s Leonard Lopate Show featured a segment about geo-engineering.

Atlantic Monthly Dallas Morning News

Re-Engineering the Earth

A survey of geo-engineering solutions to climate change, in the July/August Atlantic.

IF WE WERE transported forward in time, to an Earth ravaged by catastrophic climate change, we might see long, delicate strands of fire hose stretching into the sky, like spaghetti, attached to zeppelins hovering 65,000 feet in the air. Factories on the ground would pump 10 kilos of sulfur dioxide up through those hoses every second. And at the top, the hoses would cough a sulfurous pall into the sky. At sunset on some parts of the planet, these puffs of aerosolized pollutant would glow a dramatic red, like the skies in Blade Runner. During the day, they would shield the planet from the sun’s full force, keeping temperatures cool—as long as the puffing never ceased.


The Mayan Protocol (cartoon version)

Some time ago I wrote a brief in favor of allowing death-row inmates to donate their organs. It appeared in GOOD magazine, which has since made an animated version.

Chris Weller and Max Joseph produced this short, which by necessity cut out parts of the text. Some of those parts are important, so please check out the original article as a companion piece.


The New Orleans Project

Originally appeared in GOOD magazine.

Every year, the United States suffers attacks on American soil so brutal, our military can do little more than rebuild our wrecked cities, and console the wounded once the enemy has withdrawn.

This enemy is the Atlantic hurricane system, and the price of its damage, in dollars spent and in lives lost, rivals that of man-made war. Hurricane Katrina, which totaled nearly $100 billion and 1,800 dead in 2005, cost only slightly less than a year of the occupation of Iraq, and killed more Americans in a day than the Iraq war claimed in over two years. Last year, Hurricane Ike claimed only 177 lives, but still wreaked $31 billion of damage.


Small World After All

Originally appeared in the Fall 2008 Culture+Travel.

Courtesy of Google Earth

Since Google graphically shrank the Earth, the most far-out trips start at your desk.

When I first logged in to Google Earth, I felt liberated from gravity, space, and time—unmoored from the planet and allowed to soar, like a great bird, and discover the world’s mysterious grandeur. I could go anywhere from my computer. And where, unfettered at last, did I travel first? To the tar roof of my own building. I had no idea there were so many air-conditioning units up there. Is that my clothesline in the back? Are those my socks? The irony was at my own expense. Google Earth is positively pregnant with potential for travelers. And yet my first impulse—yours, too, I bet—was to examine the contours of my own living space, in case the view from above was more than tar. The temptation is deep to explore what you already know, as if an undiscovered screen image were just as harrowing and foreboding as an undiscovered country. But professional travelers have begun exploiting Google Earth, both to find new sites for exploration and to enrich their knowledge of places they’ve already visited. Nathaniel Waring, president of the high-end tour outfit Cox & Kings, scouts potential adventure-tour locations by prowling Google Earth obsessively. Scouring coastlines for surfing destinations, for example, he points out the wispily serrated shore of Scorpion Bay, in Baja California. The wisps suggest “a very good point break,” he says, something no atlas can convey.

Atlantic Monthly

The Battle for the Skies

Judging by James Fallows’s latest photos, Beijing’s skies are the color of rice water, and they aren’t trending in the direction of clarity. The public pronouncements of the weather-bureau spokesmen, once bold and Promethean, are now humbler: “The Beijing Olympic weather center will issue monitoring and weather warning and will update the weather information on a rolling basis,” said Wang Jiangjie, who just last January boasted of having a team of weather modifiers to clean up the skies for the Games. Her colleagues allude vaguely to techniques that are supposedly still up the Chinese meteorological sleeve, but even they note that these techniques are “only on the stage of experimentation.”