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Human Nature’s Newest Blog Series: Making the Links

Earlier this week, I blogged about a slow but noticeable shift in the way the world thinks and talks about the intersection between nature and people.

Yet despite this progress, I would argue that our industrialized society remains largely disconnected from the natural world. Too many people still think of environmental issues as occupying a separate section of the newspaper or government ministry. Most people I know don’t realize that when they buy Valentine’s Day candy next month, they may be unwittingly contributing to rampant deforestation in Southeast Asia. Or that protecting a species they’ve never heard of thousands of miles away could one day save many lives.

This brings me to our newest blog series: "Making the Links." At the end of each month, I’ll share a selection of recent news links that have left out part of the story. At first glance, some of these articles appear unrelated to the health of the Earth; others may seem irrelevant to human well-being. My goal is to bring these connections to the surface.

My intention is not to call out these articles for their omissions (at least not usually); I know the authors have word counts to stick to, and sometimes the links I’m making are hidden several layers deep. However, the more we can train ourselves to put the pieces together and see the whole picture, the more aware we’ll all be of nature’s central role in our lives — and the importance of doing more to protect it to secure our future.

Here’s my link roundup from January.

The Nature in Humans (Stories Secretly about Nature)

1.     74.5 Million iPhones Is…

This CNN article highlighted some incredible statistics that put Apple’s record-setting final quarter of 2014 into perspective. For example, the number of iPhones sold during that time is enough “to stretch 317 miles high … The stack of iPhones would soar well above the International Space Station.”

What’s missing: People rarely think about where the materials in their devices come from — and the environmental and human cost of frequently upgrading their technology.

2.     After Ban on Beef from Europe, US Gives Green Light to Ireland

The New York Times shared that nearly 16 years after mad cow disease halted European beef exports to the U.S., Ireland has become the first country to get permission to resume sales.

What’s missing: It’s possible that this shift in where the U.S. gets its beef could help keep more trees standing in South America. Even a small reduction in the market for meat from countries like Paraguay could reduce the need to convert forests into pasture, helping to ensure that these ecosystems can continue to provide food, water and other benefits for the millions of people who depend on them.

The Humans in Nature (Stories Secretly about People)

1.     Frilled Shark Caught of Australia’s Coast

This article highlighted a rare sighting of a frilled shark, a deep-sea shark species that the article describes as having “a face fitting of a sea monster.”

What’s missing: Capitalizing on the fear of sharks perpetuated by pop culture, this story fails to mention that humans kill more than 100 million sharks a year — and that if this number isn’t curbed soon, our fisheries will be in major trouble. Fortunately members of the conservation community, including biologist  David Shiffman and  TreeHugger, have shared as much in their response to this news story.

2.     India’s Tigers May Be Rebounding, in Rare Success for Endangered Species

The Indian government announced that India’s tiger population appears to have increased by 30% from 2011, a great sign for the endangered cat.

What’s missing: Given that India contains 70 percent of the world’s remaining tigers, this population growth could indicate the value of the country’s growing tiger tourism industry, both to stimulate local economies and to deter poachers.

3.     What’s That? Boa Constrictor Slinks Out of San Diego Toilet

The title says it all.

What’s missing: While it’s unclear how the snake got there, it seems likely that it was an escaped (or released) pet. According to the Humane Society of the United States, the majority of reptile owners keep their pets for less than a year due to the difficulty of caring for them. As we’ve seen in the Florida Everglades, it doesn’t take much for these creatures to permanently alter fragile ecosystems not built for their presence — and rack up millions of dollars in damage.

Check back in late February for my next roundup … and in the meantime, keep an eye out for these hidden links yourself as you keep up with the news.

Molly Bergen is the senior managing editor of Human Nature.