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Sustainability

Firenadoes and drifting embers: The secrets of extreme wildfires

Researchers probe the weather-like physics of deadly infernos

Looking for economic prosperity without growth

The only way for humanity to solve its environmental problems may be to abandon our quest for continual economic expansion. It’s time to study what a future of degrowth might look like, some researchers say.

A deeper understanding of the Grand Canyon

After 100 years as a national park and eons as a geological wonder, the American icon continues to reveal layers of its past and of the landscape ahead

Nuclear goes retro — with a much greener outlook

Returning to designs abandoned in the 1970s, start-ups are developing a new kind of reactor that promises to be much safer and cleaner than current ones.

The human factor in clean water

There are many cheap and effective ways to provide safe water to the world’s poor regions. But projects often fail due to inadequate planning, maintenance or persuasive power.

At San Diego’s Frozen Zoo, a chance for animal immortality

The cryobank is a rich source of genetic knowledge of hundreds of creatures. It may one day be used to bring endangered species back from the brink and deepen the gene pool of wild populations.

In praise of parasites

They worm into snails and infect the brains of fish. They’ve also found their way into Kevin Lafferty’s heart. He sees them as beautiful examples of sophisticated evolution, and as keys to ecosystem balance.

A salamander’s dangerous liaisons

The giant genomes of these struggling amphibians tell a story of outsider invasions, assault by disease and cross-species sex. A geneticist explains.

Betting on bats for genetic treasures

Bat genomes are full of clever tricks that are treats for biology and medical science — it’s why scientists want to sequence them all

The dating game: When food goes bad

New technologies to predict spoilage time could slash the massive waste between farm and fork

As the Arctic warms, it’s losing more than just ice

SLIDESHOW: Also at risk are the many hidden habitats built into the sea’s frozen wilds.

Finding the fat: The US Farm Bill and health

America has grown obese on processed, sugary and deceptively cheap foods. Some blame policies enshrined in an unwieldy, bloated beast of legislation.

The quickening pace of global metabolism

The use of raw materials and production of waste rise with development around the world

The marks of extinction

The mass die-offs of Earth’s past may hold clues to our future

Centuries of pondering — and squabbling about — trees

COMIC: Do forests warm or cool the Earth? What’s their effect on global climate change? A comic narrated by polymath Benjamin Franklin describes the evolution of thought on this issue and what we still don’t know.

Unpersuasive: Why arguing about climate change often doesn't work

COMIC: In the US, where political parties have increasingly staked claims on one side of the issue or the other, beliefs may be more about belonging than facts

Has humankind driven Earth into a new epoch?

Our mark on Earth is so profound that some argue it’s time to bid goodbye to the current geological time period — the Holocene — in favor of a new one: the Anthropocene.

The photosynthesis fix

As world food needs rise, so does the need for faster, more efficient plant growth. Bypassing an error-prone enzyme is one way to do it.