Originally published in American Forests Magazine, Winter 2015.What Boston’s battle with the Asian longhorned beetle can teach us about stopping an invasive pest in its tracks.
Clint McFarland didn’t want to believe the pictures he was looking at on his smartphone.
Late on a Friday afternoon in July 2010, he was at a gathering in Worcester, Mass., to recognize federal and state staff who had been working long, hard hours for two years to wrangle the city’s runaway Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) infestation, the country’s largest by far. By the time a homeowner reported it in 2008, the invasive beetles had already been boring their way across the heavily forested city in the center of the state, frighteningly close to the edge of contiguous forests that span New England and reach into Canada. Read More
Beneath the water lie memories of vibrant villages.| Originally published in The Magazine, September 11, 2014.
Sally Norcross stands outside what was once her childhood home, in the heart of Dana, Massachusetts. She and her family left town 76 years ago, but she has clear memories of throwing crabapples into the yard of her grouchy neighbor Mr. Vaughn. Across Main Street is where she used to sit in school and watch out the window as the men dug up all the graves in the cemetery.
The bodies and headstones were relocated and the town of Dana abandoned. Her family’s house is an empty stone cellar overgrown with brush, like the remains of all the other buildings that made up the town. Dana is one of four towns that once lay in the Swift River Valley. All four of them are gone. Dana is unique in that its town common is the only one of the four that’s still above water and accessible. Read More
In an otherwise unremarkable room at MIT, the published history of science fiction overflows. | Originally published in The Magazine, June 19, 2014.
By Tate Williams
Decades before Guy Consolmagno had an asteroid named after him in honor of his contributions to planetary science, he was a directionless history major at Boston College. Then he saw what MIT was keeping in a room of the student center. He knew he had to transfer.
It wasn’t MIT’s research on meteoroids and asteroids, or its contributions to NASA lunar missions, or even the early stages of what would become the Internet, though all of this was happening on the Cambridge campus around 1970. Rather, it was a bunch of novels. Thousands and thousands of science fiction novels. Read More
First published in American Forests magazine spring/summer 2014. |
In the 1820s, America's cities had a problem: People kept dying, and church burial grounds were filling up. Fortunately, a group of horticulturists in Massachusetts had a solution and, in 1831, Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge became the first modern cemetery. Other cities began to follow suit, dedicating rolling, scenic tracts of land on the outskirts of town to honor the deceased. This “rural cemetery,” or “garden cemetery,” movement not only temporarily solved the problem of where to put the dead, but it also gave us the nation’s very first parks.
Over the decades, cemeteries fell out of vogue as cultural centers, but their fall from favor was not to be permanent. Today, the practice of using cemeteries for outdoor recreation is bubbling up once more, as urban dwellers seek out nature in the city. Read More
Originally published on Curbed National, April 18, 2014. |
The Boott Mills complex stretches along the Merrimack River like a fortress, a 179-year-old set of connected brick buildings that once housed roaring hydroelectric textile factories in the heart of Lowell, Mass. It's a remarkably intact representation of the mills that launched Lowell and other towns like it to prominence during the Industrial Revolution, and then left them in economic decline in the second half of the 20th century. But Lowell's factories—most recently, the iconic Boott Mills near downtown—are making a comeback. Read More
Originally published on Futures Exchange. | Imaginative minds are exploring some strange and audacious solutions to our worst environmental problems. They are not, however, for the faint of heart, particularly if you have a strong attachment to the human body as it currently exists.
Biologists have already been toying with the idea of engineering endangered species to make them more resilient, or even resurrecting certain extinct species. But there’s a set of artists and scholars taking the concept of green bioengineering much further, imagining new species of synthetic, beneficial creatures and even biologically modified humans that leave a lighter footprint on the planet. Read More
| Essay originally published on Futures Exchange, via Medium, on October 22, 2013.
Bill McKibben was firing up a rally of climate activists in Cambridge, Mass., this past summer in preparation for a protest and mass arrest at one of the state’s coal-fired power plants:
“The message we need to keep sending all the time is, there is nothing radical about what we’re asking,” he said. “All we’re asking for is a world that works the way the one we were born into worked. That’s not radical. That’s actually kind of conservative.”
This is a shrewd point, and just one part of a pretty powerful overall talk, but as an environmentalist, I found the sentiment troubling. If the green movement’s rallying cry is to keep the world the way it was when we were born, isn’t it fairly doomed? Sounds like a stodgy, if not pointless cause. I would argue that, for environmentalism to stay vital in decades to come, it’s going to have to stop being so resistant to change, and dive into a far more imaginative conversation of what our future might hold. Read More
Profile of Boston Palestine Film Festival artist Omar Robert Hamilton, originally published on Open Media Boston, October 24, 2013.Image courtesy BPFF, from Hamilton's film "Though I Know the River is Dry."
by Tate Williams (Staff)
Omar Robert Hamilton’s entry in the Boston Palestine Film Festival is his third fiction short, but he’s made several other films, dozens, in fact.
They’re mostly brief documentaries he filmed and publicized as co-founder of the Egyptian film collective Mosireen, which played a major role in documenting the 2011 revolution and aftermath. Mosireen became the most-watched nonprofit YouTube channel in Egypt, and even worldwide during one month. Read More