The New York Times on honeybee deaths Why have so many honeybees died off? "Since 2006, millions of bees have been dying in a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder. The cause or causes have been the subject of much study and speculation," begins John M. Broder, before reporting on a USDA study that investigated the relevant factors: "The devastation of American honeybee colonies is the result of a complex stew of factors, including pesticides, parasites, poor nutrition and a lack of genetic diversity ... The problems affect pollination of American agricultural products worth tens of billions of dollars a year."
The Atlantic on oil in North Dakota Chart in hand, Jordan Weissmann explains how oil shales in North Dakota — even bigger than expected — prop up the state's working class. "When a lot of politicians and workers in places like North Dakota, Texas, Louisiana and even parts of California these days think of oil, this is what they see. Not just jobs, but well-paid jobs. They see a middle-class livelihood, even when the rest of the economy looks as if it's fallen apart. Those of us who worry about what our love affair with hydrocarbons is doing to the planet need to keep that in mind."
The Nation on what it means to be natural Jessica Valenti takes stock of the way politicians, companies, and citizens use the word "natural" to justify certain policies and decisions. "The one thing that nature lovers don't ever seem to ask themselves is this: Why does an innate state of affairs take so much work to maintain? After all, shouldn't it come… naturally?" she wonders. "Besides, 'unnatural' inventions have given us vaccines, far fewer women dying in childbirth and TiVo. If hewing to what's 'natural' can make food healthier and our environment cleaner, excellent. But using it to understand how men and women, parents and children, should behave is doing us no favors."
Vice on oil in the Amazon "This year, Ecuador is set to have its 11th oil round—the 11th time the government has tried to sell off its share of the Amazon to foreign investors—and the most probable buyer is China," writes Sascha Kouvelis. "If the auction completes, all the nasty contamination that comes with dropping gas-guzzling machinery into the middle of a rainforest will likely threaten the lives of the area's indigenous people and the natural habitat of thousands of species of living things." Kouvelis concludes: "Avoiding that mistake would require the entire world to wake up from the delusion that the Earth is an endless tap of natural resources. Which, unfortunately, isn't likely to happen any time soon."
NBC News on climate 'whiplash' Why has it gotten so cold — and, at other times unusually hot? "The cause of the maddening weather extremes and their huge and varied consequences is none other than climate change," reports Larry O'Hanlon, citing a new report by the climate research firm Climate Nexus. "The physical reason for the extremes is that as the atmosphere gets hotter, it holds more water and so is capable of generating more extreme rainfall events ... On the other hand, it’s harder to separate water from warmer air, which means drier seasons get drier."