Cli-Fi Author–Alice Henderson, Hola Cultura’s “Climate Divide: Heat Disparity in DC” Podcast, Greater Wax Worm’s Spit Dissolves Plastic!
Cli-Fi Author–Alice Henderson, Hola Cultura’s “Climate Divide” Podcast, Greater Wax Worm’s Spit Dissolves Plastic!
CLI-FI AUTHOR, ALICE HENDERSON
Author Alice Henderson is part of a new breed of climate science fiction writers creating gripping tales, also known as “cli-fi”. You should probably remember her name. Henderson comes to cli-fi honestly. She’s a writer of fiction, comics, and video game material. She’s also a dedicated wildlife researcher, geographic information systems specialist, and bioacoustician.
Bioacoustic studies is the study of the production, transmission and reception of animal sounds. This includes not only the vocalizations of animals such as birds and mammals, but also the sounds that can be produced by insects. Henderson documents wildlife on specialized recording equipment, checks remote cameras, creates maps, and undertakes wildlife surveys to determine what species are present on preserves. There she ensures there are no signs of poaching and devises ways to improve habitat. Using geographic information systems (GIS), she also designs wildlife corridors and builds habitat suitability models and species distribution models. She has surveyed for the presence of grizzlies, wolves, spotted owls, wolverines, jaguars, endangered bats, and more.
Some of her findings inevitably leak into her writing. I am particularly taken with Henderson’s SkyFire Saga. It’s a trilogy of books beginning with Shattered Roads. In a nutshell, it tells of “a future laid waste by environmental catastrophe, one woman in a shielded megacity discovers a secret hidden within—and the nightmare of what lies beyond.”
According to one Amazon reviewer, Chip Houser: “Shattered Roads is a fast-paced thriller and a fun read. The pacing here is pitch-perfect. Alice Henderson’s use of short chapters with clear arcs ending with cliffhangers is masterful. This is a highly bingeable work of fiction.”
HOLA CULTURA’S CLIMATE DIVIDE PODCAST: HEAT DISPARITY IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
The Climate Daily isn’t the only great climate change podcast out there. One of them is one we recently discovered. It’s called, “The Climate Divide: Heat Disparity in Washington, DC.” Through powerful local voices and expert interviews, this nine-part podcast explores how the legacy of redlining and other forms of housing discrimination have led to a lack of green spaces in some D.C. neighborhoods, and how these densely populated urban blocks can be as much as 20 degrees warmer than historically wealthier and more bucolic wards in the District.
Each episode explains why heat islands are a complex problem. The podcast starts with defining the causes of the heat island effect and heat disparity plays out in DC. DC is one of many cities that was shaped by discriminatory housing policies. Those policies have influenced the heat disparity we see today.
It moves into what’s at stake when heat islands persist. For example, the fact that and how being in the midst of a heat wave can make it hard to learn. Especially if you are in a classroom without working air conditioning. And it offers solutions. Natural ones like increased vegetation, tree planting, and green roofing. Technological ones, too, are offered. Want to know what they are? Well you’re just going to have to listen to Hola Cultura’s, “The Climate Divide: Heat Disparity in Washington, DC” podcast.
Why does it matter to us? Because the heat island problems endemic to Washington, DC are also endemic to any all crowded, overbuilt cities. Which means the solutions offered are applicable in those cities, too. Check out the podcast wherever you get yours, or click on the link in the Deeper Dive section of this story.
GREATER WAX WORM SPIT DISSOLVES PLASTIC
While efforts to reduce, recycle and reuse plastic are slowly making progress, there are few options when it comes to the very sturdy polyethylene (PE) material. Polyethylene is one of the most widely used forms of plastic, comprising around 30% of production and is used for a wide range of materials including hard wearing items like pipes, flooring, and bottles but it’s also used for bags and food containers.
This plastic is dense and very slow to break down in nature as it’s highly resistant to oxygen. Most attempts to degrade it require that PE be pre-treated with heat or UV light to incorporate oxygen into the polymer. Now, Spanish researchers say they’ve discovered chemicals from the larvae drool of the greater wax moth, commonly known as wax worms, that can break down polyethylene. The researchers say that one hour’s exposure to the saliva degrades the plastic as much as years of weathering.
These creatures are a well known pest that attacks and destroys honeybee hives. The researchers say the larvae’s destructive abilities when it comes to beeswax may provide an explanation of their capacity for PE degradation. They hope the breakthrough will lead to new natural approaches to deal with plastic pollution. They’ve discovered two enzymes in the liquid that can degrade polyethylene at room temperatures and believe it’s the first time that such an effective agent has been found in nature.
Why does the plastic dissolving ability of the greater wax worm matter to us? As Dr Federica Bertocchini, a co-author on the paper also from the Spanish National Research Council, said, “We imagine you could apply this new understanding to large plastic waste management facilities. But you could also have a home-based kit which could help you degrade your own plastic.”