Chewing the Cud on Wild Yaks

A weekly roundup of the best in science journalism, doodled.

I’m very curious about what it will mean for the environment if California starts building desalination plants off its coast. Turning saltwater into freshwater is a process well underway in places like the Middle East, but U.S. projects have lagged behind. Now, thanks to a four-year drought, desalination in the Golden State is getting a recharge—but not without controversy. As the New York Times reports, these expensive plants consume lots of electricity and could have impacts on local sea life.

Flora Lichtman
Credit: Photo: Flora Lichtman

There are still vast places and creatures on earth that we know very little about—like wild yaks in the Himalayas. Biologist Joel Berger describes a day in the extreme life of this animal at “the roof of the world.” (By the way, alongside photos of his daughter, Berger also carries photos of yaks and muskoxen and saiga and chiru in his wallet.) He tells Flora Lichtman of the Adaptors podcast that they’ve never been able to put a radio collar on a yak, which means more observation days in the field—and more 25-degree nights snoozing in two sleeping bags.

Credit: Photo: Lieven Devreese and Gael Elie Gnondo Gobolo

GOOD NEWS ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT! The red colobus monkey is not, in fact, extinct. A team of researchers, led by northern Congo locals familiar with the primates’ vocalizations and habits, took the first photograph ever of a mother red colobus with her infant. Apparently when they encounter humans, red colobus stay where they are in the tree and just gaze down at us—which is probably why they are so rare. Don’t talk to strangers, monkey!

An op-ed column in an Australian newspaper claims ocean acidification is an invention of scientists and survivable by corals. Graham Readfern at the Guardian consults with three reputable scientists to find out just how valid those arguments are. (Spoiler: They’re not.) Journalists don’t want to spend too much time taking apart misleading opinion pieces, but this takedown taught me a lot—and has some good pointers for those dinner parties where your host’s friends (we know YOUR friends wouldn’t be science deniers) start talking this and that about the “ocean acidification hoax.”

This article was originally published on onEarth, which is no longer in publication. onEarth was founded in 1979 as the Amicus Journal, an independent magazine of thought and opinion on the environment. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. This article is available for online republication by news media outlets or nonprofits under these conditions: The writer(s) must be credited with a byline; you must note prominently that the article was originally published by and link to the original; the article cannot be edited (beyond simple things such grammar); you can’t resell the article in any form or grant republishing rights to other outlets; you can’t republish our material wholesale or automatically—you need to select articles individually; you can’t republish the photos or graphics on our site without specific permission; you should drop us a note to let us know when you’ve used one of our articles.

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