strange behaviors

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  • Richard Conniff

  • Reviews for Richard Conniff’s Books

    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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Posts Tagged ‘public health’

In Beijing and Washington, A Breath of Foul Air

Posted by Richard Conniff on January 21, 2017

Airport ad for a way to breathe in Beijing. (Photo: Richard Conniff)

Airport ad for a way to breathe in Beijing. (Photo: Richard Conniff)

by Richard Conniff/The New York Times

When friends cautioned me about Beijing’s notorious air pollution recently, ahead of my first visit there, I brushed it off. It was an old story, and having grown up in northern New Jersey in the era of unregulated industrial air pollution and open garbage burning on the Meadowlands, I figured I could handle it. But I began to have second thoughts on the flight in from the north, when we crossed a mountain ridge and the clear air turned instantly to dense smog. It was still 20 minutes to touchdown.

After a day or two in the city, I felt as if I had taken up cigarettes. Same burned-out feeling at the back of the throat, with bits of airborne grit catching on the epiglottis. Same clearing of the throat by soft coughing. It got worse over the weekend, when regulations limiting cars on the road don’t apply. Coming back into the city on a Sunday afternoon was like a slow apocalypse. The air was a filthy brownish gray, and pedestrians, many of them wearing white face masks, walked hunched over as if through a rainstorm. Buildings emerged ghostlike from the haze a half-mile ahead and vanished again behind.

But I was a novice. It turned out that this was a relatively normal winter day for Beijing, with the air quality index at just 269. That’s rated “very unhealthy” by the World Health Organization, and many times worse than the maximum safe exposure level, but nowhere near those headline-making, sky-darkening days when the Beijing index has topped 700.

Back in New Jersey, the air quality index was generally under 50, and it reminded me how lucky we are to have relatively strong laws and regulations to protect our air. These are the same protections that President Donald J. Trump loudly promised during his campaign to undo on his first day in office. Indeed, the new Republican-dominated House of Representatives this month passed a Regulatory Accountability Act, which will give the new president power to roll back an array of governmental regulations, including 50 years of environmental protections — with as little public notice as possible. It could undermine even the Clean Air Act of 1972 and for the first time oblige regulators to put corporate profits ahead of public health.

The disingenuous logic of this attack

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Posted in Environmental Issues | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Saving Wildlife is Good for Your Health (But It’s Complicated)

Posted by Richard Conniff on June 19, 2015

(Photo: Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)

(Photo: Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)

I live in one of the towns that gave Lyme disease its name, and yet I also love wildlife. So I rejoiced a few years ago when a study argued that maintaining healthy natural habitats with a rich diversity of wildlife can help keep people healthy, too, by protecting us from infectious diseases. Now two new studies out this week support this theory—though skeptics say they still have their doubts.

The basic idea, first proposed by ecologists Richard Ostfeld and Felicia Keesing, is called the “dilution effect,” and it works like this: for a given disease affecting multiple species—like Lyme disease or malaria—some host animals readily transmit the disease organism to the tick or mosquito that will carry it to the next victim. But other species are dead ends.

In the case of Lyme disease in the western United States, for example, western gray squirrels readily contract the bacteria and pass it on to ticks. But when those same ticks feed on western fence lizards, it kills the Lyme-causing bacteria in the ticks’ blood. That makes the lizards a bad host for Lyme, and good for us. In theory, the greater the biodiversity in any habitat, the more chances Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Conservation and Extinction | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »