Unnatural Selection, The New Yorker
The ocean holds many wonders, but perhaps none are more precious and more fragile than its tropical coral reefs. Coral, at first sight, appears to be a lifeless rock, but it’s actually a miniature animal that houses an even smaller plant inside its cells — a symbiotic relationship developed over millennia. Ruth Gates, a University of Hawaii marine biologist, is attempting to speed up that evolutionary process and create a “super coral” by exposing it to the harsher conditions expected by next century: warmer, more acidic water caused by climate change. It’s a new take on conservation — call it “assisted evolution” — that’s also being tested on forests in Syracuse, N.Y., where a professor is genetically engineering a fungus-resistant chestnut tree. Can these scientists do what Mother Nature couldn’t?
This Mayor Wants To Give Struggling Cities a Front-Row Seat in D.C., Next City
Standing at 6’8” with a shaved head and tattoos on his arms, the mayor of Braddock, a Pittsburgh suburb hammered by industrial decline, doesn’t look like your typical public official. Dubbed America’s coolest mayor, John Fetterman has implemented some of the brightest ideas for urban renewal, as he replaced a moribund steel industry with public art, urban agriculture, craft beer and other hipster fare. Now, Fetterman is competing in the Democratic primary for Pennsylvania’s Senate seat (currently held by a Republican). If he wins, he’s promised a new Marshall Plan (like the billions invested in Europe after WWII) for America’s forgotten cities. In most election cycles, Fetterman would be written off as an outsider without a chance, but in this unpredictable year, this fresh candidate may just have a shot.
The Resurrection of St. Benedict’s, 60 Minutes
Up until 1967, St. Benedict’s Prep was your run-of-the-mill Catholic boy’s school, serving upper-middle class, white families in Newark, N.J. But when racial tensions exploded into bloody riots that summer, whites fled the city en masse. The school nearly collapsed (it closed for one year), but faculty member Edwin Leahy, then 26, quickly got it back on its feet. It reopened with one big change: students would run the school themselves, keeping each other out of gangs and competing for top marks. Of its 550 students today, nearly all from poor neighborhoods, only two percent don’t finish high school — in a city with a 30 percent dropout rate. Intellect isn’t the major problem in American education, Leahy, a Benedictine monk, argues; it’s all about making students’ realizing their own potential and see “the fact that they are a gift to somebody else.”