Article tracks an expensive medicinal fungus; book foresees an unsettled climate

August 13, 2012
Climate Science
Of weirdness and warming
“Global Weirdness,” Pantheon

When it comes to forecasting weather, argue the authors of “Global Weirdness,” only one thing is certain: the unexpected. The book, by researchers from Climate Central, a nonprofit group, attempt to lay out the facts regarding climate change. While it’s true that temperatures are trending upward and the ice caps are melting, the long-term future is difficult to foretell. “Things get more complicated when scientists try to predict what will happen,” the book explains. “That’s why this book isn’t titled ‘Global Warming,’ but rather ‘Global Weirdness,’ since warming is only part of what we can expect.” In this case, “weird” mostly means “bad” — deadly heat waves, droughts, severe storms and rising seas. In concise and clearly worded chapters, the book addresses the many questions — myths and distortions among them — regarding the consequences of pumping vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Wildlife
Wonder worm
National Geographic, August

Feeling under the weather? Maybe you should eat worms. Not worms, actually, but a rare worm look-alike, yartsa gunbu, a fungus that infects moth larvae. “The fungus devours the body of the caterpillar, leaving only the exoskeleton intact, and then, come spring, blooms in the form of a brown stalk, called the stroma, that erupts from the caterpillar’s head,” explains Michael Finkel in this month’s issue of National Geographic. Perhaps that doesn’t sound (or look) particularly appetizing, but in China, they can barely keep the shelves stocked with the fungus. Finkel follows the yartsa gunbu from its origins in the high-altitude meadows of the Tibetan Plateau to the Chinese market, where it’s sold as a cure for ailments including back pain, tumors and impotence. “Just boil a few in a cup of tea, or stew in a soup, or roast in a duck, and all that ails you will be healed — or so it’s said,” he writes. The fungus’s actual health benefits have not yet been proven, but at up to $50,000 a pound, it’s doing wonders for the Tibetan farmers and yak herders who harvest it.


Book cover, “Global Weirdness: Severe Storms, Deadly Heat Waves, Relentless Drought, Rising Seas, and the Weather of the Future.” (Climate Central)

Aaron Leitko

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