Ecosexuals Believe Having Sex with the Earth Could Save It

From skinny dippers to people who have actual intercourse with nature, ecosexuality is a growing movement taking a new approach to combatting climate change.

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If you happen to find yourself in Sydney this week, you have the unique opportunity to have sex with the earth. You just need to stop by the “ecosexual bathhouse,” which is currently part of the Syndey LiveWorks Festival of experimental art. The bathhouse is an interactive installation created by artists Loren Kronemyer and Ian Sinclair of Pony Express, who described the work to me as a “no-holds-barred extravaganza meant to dissolve the barriers between species as we descend into oblivion” as the result of our global environmental crisis. But they also see their piece as a part of a much larger ecosexual movement, which they say is gathering momentum around the world.

And they may be right. Jennifer Reed, a PhD candidate in sociology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is writing a dissertation on ecosexuality, and says that the number of people who identify as ecosexuals has increased markedly in the past two years. And Google search data confirms that interest in the term has spiked dramatically over the past year. We may look back on 2016 as the year ecosexuality hit the mainstream.

Ecosexuality is a term with wide-ranging definitions, which vary depending on who you ask.

nintchdbpict000280098058A participant at the Ecosexual Bathhouse by the art group Pony Express. Photo by Matt Sav

 

Amanda Morgan, a faculty member at the UNLV School of Community Health Sciences who is involved in the ecosexual movement, says that ecosexuality could be measured in a sense not unlike the Kinsey Scale: On one end, it encompasses people who try to use sustainable sex products, or who enjoy skinny dipping and naked hiking. On the other are “people who roll around in the dirt having an orgasm covered in potting soil,” she said. “There are people who fuck trees, or masturbate under a waterfall.”

The movement’s growing prominence owes much to the efforts of Bay Area performance artists, activists, and couple Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens, who have made ecosexuality a personal crusade. They have published an “ecosex manifesto” on their website SexEcology and produced several films on the theme, including a documentary, Goodbye Gauley Mountain: An Ecosexual Love Story, which depicts the “pollen-amorous” relationship between them and the Appalachian Mountains. And while touring a theater piece across the country, Dirty Sexecology: 25 Ways to Make Love to the Earth, they’ve officiated wedding ceremonies where they and fellow ecosexuals marry the earth, the moon, and other natural entities.

Sprinkle and Stephens talk openly about ecosexuality as a new form of sexual identity. At last year’s San Francisco Pride Parade, they led a contingent of over a hundred ecosexuals in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to “officially” add an E to the LGBTQI acronym; Stephens told Outside that they believe there are now at least 100,000 people around the world who openly identify as ecosexuals.

A trailer for Pony Express’ “Ecosexual Bathhouse”

According to Reed’s research, the term “ecosexuality” has existed since the early 2000s, when it started appearing as a self-description on online dating profiles. It wasn’t until 2008 that it began its evolution toward a fully fledged social movement, when Sprinkle and Stephens began officiating ecosexual weddings. The two artists had been active in the marriage equality movement, and they wanted to harness that energy for environmental causes. Stephens has said that their aim was to reconceptualize the way we look at the earth, from seeing the planet as a mother to seeing it as a lover.

Also in 2008, Stefanie Iris Weiss, a writer and activist based in New York, began researching her book Eco-sex: Go Green Between the Sheets and Make Your Love Life Sustainable, published in 2010. Weiss, who was at that time unaware of Sprinkle and Stephens’s work, initially lent the idea a more practical, literal focus, with research revealing the harmful environmental impact of materials used in condoms, lubes, and other sex products upon both our bodies and the planet. She said that she wrote the book to help people make their sex lives “more carbon neutral and sustainable,” and to help us avoid polluting our bodies when we have sex.

The desire for safer and more sustainable sex products remains an important part of the ecosexual movement, and Weiss said that green options for consumers when it comes to sex products have increased dramatically since she wrote her book. But she has also happily embraced Sprinkle and Stephens’s more holistic take on ecosexuality, immediately recognizing in their efforts a shared goal: to help people reconnect with nature, and with their own bodies.

Reed said that ecosexuality is different from other social movements in that it focuses on personal behavior and pleasure rather than protests or politics. She said that some people within the environmental movement have kept their distance from it for this reason. But ecosexual activists interviewed for this story all insist they have a serious goal at heart. As Morgan said, thinking about the earth as a lover is the first step toward taking the environmental crisis seriously. “If you piss off your mother, she’s probably going to forgive you. If you treat your lover badly, she’s going to break up with you.”

At the same time, the sense of levity that characterizes works such as the bathhouse or Sprinkle and Stephens’s performances is an integral part of the movement. Morgan describes ecosexuality as a means of moving beyond the “depressing Al Gore stuff” that people often associate with environmentalism. Her hope, and that of other ecosexuals such as Weiss and Kronemyer, is that it can gives the average person a way of engaging with the issue that is accessible and fun, and that creates a sense of hopefulness.

Morgan and Weiss both say that they also see sex as a potentially powerful tool for motivating people to make the environment a priority. As Weiss put it: “If you’re running from floods, you won’t have any time for sex.”

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Report: Great Lakes Feeling Effects of Rapid Climate Warming

0806E02A-BE2A-4116-BFCF-470A0B14D5B0In this March 12, 2019 satellite photo provided by NOAA, shows the Great Lakes in various degrees of snow and ice. A scientific report says the Great Lakes region is warming faster than the rest of the U.S., which likely will bring more flooding and other extreme weather events such as heat waves and drought. NOAA via AP

 

The Great Lakes region is warming faster than the rest of the United States, a trend likely to bring more extreme storms while also degrading water quality, worsening erosion and posing tougher challenges for farming, scientists reported Thursday.

The annual mean air temperature in the region, which includes portions of the U.S. Midwest, Northeast and southern Canada, rose 1.6 degrees (0.9 Celsius) from 1901-60 and 1985-2016, according to the report commissioned by the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center. During the same periods, the mean temperature for the remainder of the contiguous U.S. rose 1.2 degrees (0.7 Celsius).

Warming is expected to continue this century, with rates depending on the volume of heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide and methane that humans pump into the atmosphere. As the air warms, it will hold more moisture, which likely will mean heavier winter snowstorms and spring rains — with more flooding in vulnerable areas. Yet summers will be hotter and drier.

“Climate change is already affecting the climate of the Great Lakes region and the physical behavior of the Great Lakes themselves,” said Don Weubbles, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Illinois and former assistant director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Obama administration.

The five Great Lakes hold about one-fifth of the world’s surface fresh water and are so large that they influence regional weather. They keep nearby lands cooler in summer and warmer in winter than those farther inland, while their humidity fuels lake-effect snowfall and summer rains. In addition to providing drinking water for millions of people, they are the backbone of an economy built on manufacturing, agriculture and tourism.

A warming climate will add to stresses the lakes have suffered from industrial pollution and development, particularly overflows from urban sewer systems that carry harmful bacteria, said the report produced by 18 scientists, most from Midwestern universities as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

While annual U.S. precipitation increased 4 percent between 1901 and 2015, it jumped nearly 10 percent in the Great Lakes region, with much of the increase due to unusually large storms, the report said. Future precipitation is likely to happen less evenly, decreasing 5 to 15 percent in the summer by 2100.

Heat waves should become more common, posing risks for the elderly and children with asthma. By the end of the century, the region should have up to 40 additional days with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees (32.2 Celsius).

Winter snowfall should decrease in most places, although locales accustomed to lake effect squalls can expect them to dump even more snow — particularly along the Lake Ontario snowbelt in New York.

The study did not include a cost-benefit analysis of a warming climate’s likely results. Several of the scientists said in a phone news conference there may be some bright spots but that the economic impact would be mostly negative.

The region could have longer growing seasons, said Brad Cardinale of the University of Michigan’s Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research. But the report suggests that benefit could be offset by wetter springs that make it harder to plant crops, plus increasing drought and heat in summer. Corn and soybean yields are expected to drop 10 to 30 percent by the century’s end.

Drinking water quality will be degraded by more releases of untreated sewage during heavy storms and runoff of nutrients that feed harmful algae blooms, some toxic. While such blooms are common on Lake Erie and portions of Lakes Huron and Michigan, they’ve also begun showing up in deep, frigid Lake Superior — an unprecedented development, said Lucinda Johnson of the University of Minnesota at Duluth.

Beaches, dunes and shorelines will experience more erosion from heavier rainfall, the report predicted.

It’s uncertain how climate change will affect water levels in the Great Lakes, which already fluctuate periodically, the scientists said. Warmer temperatures will produce less ice cover, boosting evaporation and pushing levels down. But they could rise in years with especially heavy precipitation and temporary deep freezes caused by southward migration of frigid polar air.

Although the Trump administration has reversed federal policies intended to prevent climate change, states and local governments can take measures such as increasing energy efficiency, stepping up use of renewable sources and preventing runoff of nutrient-rich manure from large livestock farms, said Howard Learner, president of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

“We cannot wait for the Trump administration to accept sound science,” Learner said. “We need to step up and act.”

 

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Ticks and Insects Are Making More People Sick, and the Problem Is Only Getting Worse!

The Cayenne tick, Amblyomma cajennense, can spread Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.Image: Christopher Paddock/James Gathany (CDC)

A new report out Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlights a scary reality: Diseases spread by six- and eight-legged bugs are becoming more common. And worse than that, health officials across the country seem woefully incapable of dealing with them.

The report’s authors looked at available data on vector-borne diseases collected through the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System from 2004 to 2016. In total, there were over 640,000 reported cases of 16 diseases, and diseases caused by mosquitoes, fleas, and tick bites had more than tripled during that time period. Ticks caused 77 percent of these cases, and the incidence of tickborne diseases more than doubled.

“These data indicate persistent, locality-specific risks and a rising threat from emerging vector-borne diseases, which have increasingly encumbered local and state health departments tasked with preventing, detecting, reporting, and controlling them,” the CDC authors wrote.

Lyme disease was by far the most common disease, accounting for 82 percent of all tickborne illness. But nine germs never before seen in the US were also detected. There were newly discovered diseases, such as the tickborne Heartland and Bourbon viruses. There were also previously known diseases that had never been documented in the US, such as cases of relapsing fever caused by the bacteria Borrelia miyamotoi. And there were diseases that had crossed country borders for the first time, such as local cases of the mosquitoborne Zika virus that plagued Puerto Rico in 2016.

The true toll of vector-borne disease is likely far higher than the official tally, the CDC authors noted. It’s estimated that Lyme disease alone infects 300,000 Americans annually, a number tenfold higher than the reported count. And for every reported serious case of West Nile Virus—the most common mosquitoborne disease in the US—that damages the nervous system, there are anywhere from 30 to 70 milder cases that go unnoticed. Based on that math, there might have actually been between 39,300 to 91,700 of these cases in 2016, compared to the 840 that were reported.

The report doesn’t detail any commonly cited reasons for the increase, most notably climate change, something the World Health Organization cites as a key driver of vector-borne disease. In an interview with the New York Times, lead author of the report and director of the vector-borne diseases division at the CDC, Lyle Peterson, repeatedly refused to point the finger at climate change, only going so far as to discuss the likely importance of warmer weather.

Under different circumstances, Peterson’s hesistance to mention climate change could be seen as nothing more than the actions of a typically cautious scientist. But given that the Trump administration and Trump himself have been reluctant to even utter the phrase, the implications are much more worrying. In a completely normal statement, Peterson went on to tell the Times that he was “not under any pressure to say anything or not say anything” about climate change.

Other scientists aren’t as reluctant to blame it, though.

“We know that poverty is a factor as well as shifts in human migration and transportation,” Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Texas’ Baylor College of Medicine, told Gizmodo via email. “But also of great importance is climate change.”

Warmer seasons, for instance, expand the territory that troublesome tick and insect species can call home, as well as extend the time that humans come into contact with them. And extreme bursts of hot weather can provide the kindling for mosquitoborne outbreaks to spread further.

Hotez recently published a paper examining the rise of vector-borne diseases within Texas, including Zika, the fleaborne typhus, and Chagas disease, spread by a cousin of bed bugs known as the kissing bug. In it, he noted that by 2050, Texas is expected to spend 80 to 100 days blanketed in sweltering temperatures 95 degrees Fahrenheit and higher, compared to the 40 days a year seen over the previous three decades. That change, coupled with rising sea levels, is likely to contribute to the rise of these diseases.

“So I agree that climate change needs to be put out there as a major driver of vector-borne disease in the US just as it is in Southern Europe (return of malaria to Italy and Greece), schistosomiasis in Corsica, and West Nile Virus across Southern Europe,” said Hotez.

Of immediate concern, too, is the fact that few organizations and health officials have the tools needed to best combat these diseases. A recent national survey, cited by the CDC report, found that 84 percent of vector control organizations are lacking at least one of five essential aspects to their work, such as overall surveillance or ways to monitor growing resistance to pesticides.

[CDC via New York Times]

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