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Future Human
Life at the edge of science. A new publication from Medium.

The climate activist and scientist Alicia Pérez-Porro is, in her own words, “hyperactive and does a lot of things.” But even that might be an understatement.

Though she used to study the effects of the climate on sea sponge genetics, the marine biologist now focuses on climate activism and justice, which she says enables her to directly engage in the climate conversation in a way that research did not. Now, she’s the president of an association of Spanish scientists in the United States called ECUSA; is the scientific coordinator at the Spanish research center CREAF; co-founded Ellas Lideran (“women lead”)…

A farmer harvests wheat crop in a field on the outskirts of Faridabad, India on April 4, 2021. Photo: MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images

Before she started thinking about the future of food, climate scientist Sonali McDermid, PhD, studied the ancient past. Specifically, the Pleistocene era, a period 3 million years ago when warming global temperatures changed the Earth’s climate. For McDermid, it was impossible not to draw comparisons to the present — and think about the billions of people who would be affected by such a shift today.

Meanwhile, she was also thinking about food: where it comes from, who gets to eat it, and what will happen to it as the climate changes. She fused these interests over time, and now she’s…

People walk through MLK Park near Santa Fe and Nystrom Village neighborhoods in Richmond, California, March 23, 2021. Photos by Sarahbeth Maney for OneZero.

Black in the Time of Climate Change

Wind blows oily black dust onto cars, windowsills, and lawns as a 100-car train loaded with coal rolls past Parchester Village, a historically Black neighborhood in Richmond, California. This happens a couple of times a week. The train’s cargo, mined from the mountains of Utah by the coal giant Wolverine Fuels, will join the towering piles of coal at the Levin-Richmond Terminal, a privately owned coal shipping port seven miles away. The terminal is responsible for a quarter of the coal the United States ships from the West Coast to Asia.

The coal dust gets so thick that some say…

A woolly mammoth skeleton is displayed at Summers Place Auctions on November 26, 2014 in Billingshurst, England. Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

On a warm afternoon in the northeastern Siberian region of Yakutia, farther north than most humans care to live, Sergey Zimov stood below an eroding mudbank along the Kolyma River. He reached down by his feet and drove a metal rod into the spongy ground that sucked at his boots, hitting what lies a few feet beneath the surface: a layer of frozen soil that’s as hard as rock — and arguably as dangerous as dynamite.

Arctic permafrost holds up to 1,600 gigatons of carbon, roughly twice what’s in the atmosphere. Temperatures across the region are warming more than twice

Illustration of a cyborg from the collarbones up, facing the right side of the image, in a dark space. Its metal face has been slightly detached from the rest of its head to reveal the computer chips and wires inside.
Image: Devrimb/E+/Getty Images

The military has long been interested in what medical ethicist Jonathan Moreno calls “the whole supersoldier business” — using technology to produce bionically or pharmaceutically superior warfighters. Moreno, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, is interested too. Specifically, in one question that keeps gnawing at him: How much can a soldier’s brain bear?

“You can know that with a backpack — 60, 70 pounds — there is a limit,” he tells Future Human. “But what are the kinds of limits to the neurotechnologies that a soldier can carry around?”

Moreno’s discussions on this topic with his former postdoc, Nick…

The silhouette of a vaccine shot hovering over dark silhouettes of people from various age groups.
Photo: japatino/Moment/Getty Images

On one side are the leaders of 57 nations, the Pope, and a coalition of nursing unions all over the world. On the other are the executives of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical corporations. At issue is an idea that may be the only chance of ending the Covid-19 pandemic — and also takes aim at the drug industry’s core business model.

The dividing question: Should Covid-19 vaccines remain the intellectual property of drug companies?

In October 2020, India and South Africa submitted a petition asking that the World Trade Organization waive the intellectual property rules relating to Covid-19 that currently…

Photo: Pexels

Under the Paris climate agreement, the world is attempting to limit the dangerous global temperature rise to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius. The agreement has also set an ambitious target for the European Union to be climate neutral (net-zero carbon dioxide emissions) by 2050. In addition to the usual suspects causing global warming, such as burning fossil fuels, significant contributions also come from the buildings that make up the towns and cities around us.

But now, a Danish architecture company is developing easy-to-install kits aimed at making homes more energy efficient. …

Reengineering Life

Photo illustration source: EyeEm/Getty Images

Reengineering Life is a column from Future Human about the ways humans are using biology to reprogram our bodies and the world around us.

Thanks to selective breeding over the course of some 9,000 years, humans were able to transform an ancient wild grass with dinky cobs and a handful of kernels into the sweet, juicy corn we know today.

More recently, scientists have used genetic engineering to further transform the crop, resulting in pest-resistant corn. Now, researchers think gene editing — which is far more precise than traditional genetic engineering — could improve corn even more. …

In the lower left corner of this photo is a small rectangle with closeup of a depressed-looking Black person against a yellow background. A larger, zoomed-out, slightly blurry version of the same image, but colored red, is to the left of the small rectangle, which overlaps it slightly. The background is an even more zoomed-out and blurry version of the pic, colored orange.
Photo illustration: Save As for Medium; source: Getty Images

At Connecticut’s Behavioral Wellness Clinic, therapist Mailae Halstead keeps a careful eye on her patients as they’re “pulled through time.” She’s there as they watch themselves survive a traumatic moment from a bird’s-eye view, or feel reimmersed in a joyful experience. She’ll ask few questions because there’s another force at work in their brains.

At the beginning of the session, her patients placed a ketamine-laced lozenge in their mouth for a very specific reason: to explore the psychological trauma left by systemic racism.

The ketamine dosing session is the culmination of weeks of preparation. Halstead has learned her patient’s personalities…

The Color of Climate

Photo of climate change rally in Washington D.C.
Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: Getty Images

This is The Color of Climate, a weekly column from Future Human exploring how climate change and other environmental issues uniquely impact the future of communities of color.

Indigenous communities and environmental groups are fighting a battle against a planned tar sands pipeline they say could do irreparable damage to ecosystems in Northern Minnesota. Known as Line 3, the project was ordered by President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice in 2014, which aimed to replace a pipeline built in 1968 that has a long history of oil spills — including the largest inland oil spill in United States history. That…

Future Human

Life at the edge of science. A new publication from Medium.

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