John Upton is a journalist who studied ecology and environmental science at James Cook University, Australia, and has a master’s degree in business. In California until 2012 he reported for the San Francisco Examiner and then for the Bay Citizen, when the then-startup produced content for its own website and for the local pages of the New York Times.
Currently in New Delhi, Upton contributes several green news blogs daily to Grist, plus the occasional fully reported story. He is also a contributor to the New York Times India Ink and Slate and has written recently for Vice, Reuters, 7×7 San Francisco, Modern Farmer and other outlets.
Upton’s main skills are reporting and writing, but he also has training and professional experience in photography, multimedia production and online video. His specialty is environmental and science coverage, enjoying nothing more than writing about ecology (hence, this wonky wildlife blog). He has also reported extensively on politics, government and public infrastructure.
I wake up and suck a bowl of charred asbestos through a dirty bong.
Well, that’s what it feels like most winter mornings when I open the door of the fourth-floor New Delhi apartment that I currently call home. Fog-drenched clumps of soot, ozone molecules, and microscopic bundles of nitrogen oxides flow down my trachea and into my chest, where some become lodged. Some of these particles might give me lung cancer. Others will enter my bloodstream, further inflaming old ankle and finger injuries. The airborne detritus puts me in danger of contracting bronchitis, asthma, a lung infection, even hypertension and dementia.
China’s appalling air quality made headlines around the world this winter. But people living in New Delhi and in dozens of other cities throughout the developing world consistently endure air with heavier loads of soot than do the residents of Beijing. While most Americans and Europeans now enjoy cleaner air than they did for much of the last century, air pollution is worsening in Asia, claiming millions of lives every year. Continue reading…
A Bold Plan to Reshape the Central Valley Flood Plain - Bay Citizen / New York Times
Jacob Katz stood shin-deep in a flooded rice paddy that is often dried out at this time of year. He thrust his hand into a writhing mass of baby salmon in his net and plucked three of the silver fry from the wind-whipped water’s surface.
In late January, five acres of this farmland in Yolo County was flooded and stocked with thousands of weeks-old Chinook salmon. It was the beginning of a three-year experiment that conservationists and government officials hope will provide scientific data to help guide a sweeping transformation of riverfront lands throughout the Central Valley, California’s prolific farming region. Continue reading…
Close your eyes and imagine yourself at your favorite beach. Swells rise around your tanned hips. A bottle of beer and a joint are held safe and dry above your head. You’re sporting a revealing little bathing suit over a younger version of your hot self, airbrushed to perfection using the power of imagination. And there are no cops around to spoil the fun.
Now imagine what that beach would look like if the water was 15 feet higher. Your beer and your ganja are now full of saltwater, and you’re struggling just to keep your head above the waves. Unless your favorite beach is at the bottom of a cliff, nearby buildings are under water, taken over by invasive communities of pineapple-dwelling, square pants-wearing sponges.
That’s not some outrageous scenario dreamed up by liberal scientists with global warming agendas. (The sponge bit was admittedly outrageous, but you can blame me, not the scientists, for it.) No, it’s where sea levels were 120,000 years ago: 15 feet higher than they are today.
Fast forward to 20,000 years ago, when the world was nearing the end of an ice age. Vast stretches of today’s oceans were ice cubes, and as a result, sea levels were 400 feet lower than they are today. What now are tropical near-shore islands back then were frigid hills. Continue reading…
Fear the Fungus - Slate
Our single-celled ancestors darted around the world’s vast ocean a billion years ago, propelling themselves with tiny flagella tails and feeding on primitive plants, algae, and one another. Around this time, two groups of these ancient creatures branched into what would become two of life’s most successful kingdoms. One group developed into animals. The other became fungi. Animals and fungi both breathe oxygen and replenish their energy by eating food. Their cells are similar. The two closely akin kingdoms have occupied the Earth through most of their histories in an awkward fraternal tussle. When environmental conditions change quickly, fungi turn into opportunistic parricides, attacking and feasting on their enfeebled animal kin. Deadly fungi are thriving today amid environmental tumult, wiping out nests of bumblebees, colonies of bats, and hundreds of species of frogs.
And they are coming for us. Continue reading …
Prisoners of the Cosco Busan - East Bay Express
When Liang Xian Zheng took a job working as the boatswain on the Cosco Busan, the seasoned seaman knew the $29.50-a-day gig would send him out to sea for six to ten months. He also knew it meant undertaking a wearisome 1,000-mile journey from his home in Beijing, China to the port of Busan in South Korea, where the container ship was based. But what Zheng couldn’t have known was that, two weeks after boarding the cargo ship and ably performing his duties as a lookout during a crisis, he would be trapped in a foreign land on an exotic legal warrant, in misery and legal purgatory, until months after his seafaring expedition was supposed to have ended. Continue reading…