Shaping future cities

YOU have probably seen the annual rankings of the world’s cities by “liveability” or “quality of life”. It is intriguing to discover which come out top – and which bottom. After all, most of us have skin in this game: more than half of people around the world live in urban environments, and that number is growing. But you may also have wondered what “quality of life” really means. Which qualities? Whose life…?

Rocio Montoya

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 9 June 2021. To continue reading, click here (paywall).


The elephant vanishes

ONE day in late September 2020, the Kludsky family – Yvonne, a slim, blond woman in her 60s, her husband, George, who is over 80 but still fit and strong, and their son Martyn – led their elephant up a ramp into the 10-metre trailer that constituted her second home. Dumba went willingly, as always; it was her owners who dragged their feet. The family had spent much of their lives on the road, but this time they did not know how long they would be gone, or if they would ever return…

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 8 June 2021. To continue reading, click here.


On the surveillance society

HOW is it that we live in a world that is awash with our personal information, where most of us would be shocked if we knew exactly how much we give away about ourselves each day – and yet, when a crisis came along in which that information could have made all the difference, it didn’t…?

Illustration by Paul Tansley for The Observer

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 21 May 2021. To continue reading, click here.

Are there too many people?

IN 2011, when the global population hit 7 billion, economist David Lam and demographer Stan Becker made a bet. Lam predicted food would get cheaper over the next decade, despite continuing population growth. Becker predicted that food prices would go up, because of the damage humans were doing to the planet, which meant that population growth would outstrip food supply. Becker won and, following his wishes, Lam has just written out a cheque for $194 to the Vermont-based nonprofit Population Media Center, which promotes population stabilisation internationally…

This article first appeared in The Observer on 8 May 2021. To continue reading, click here.

Freelancers take the flak

TWO years before reporting on Harvey Weinstein’s serial abuse spawned the global #MeToo movement, Michael Balter, a science journalist, was already covering issues of sexual misconduct in the sciences. He’s pursued several dozen investigations into sexual harassment at major scientific institutions, published in Science magazine, The Verge, and his own blog, where he works for no pay. (He detailed his reasons for shifting his #MeToo reporting to his blog for CJR in 2019.) In June 2020, Danielle Kurin, an archaeologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, sued Balter for defamation after he published a series of blog posts about allegations of Title IX violations and sexual misconduct against her and her former husband, respectively. She’s asking for $18 million in damages…

Section 230

This article first appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review on 28 April 2021. To continue reading, click here.


writer & journalist