The illusion of clean mining waste

Multiple sources over several decades have described the Sydvaranger iron mine’s waste products, most of which end up in a nearby fjord, as ‘clean sand,’ a definition it increasingly doesn’t fit. So why does it keep resurfacing?

No, dear government spokesperson, we aren’t talking on background

EDITORIAL No, dear government spokesperson, we aren’t talking on background Giving statements on the record is the entire point of a press office. Halftone by alicia_mb on Freepik. by Jay Richardson 7 September 2023 In the past four months, the sonification has received two separate emails from UK government press officers containing detailed statements headed […]

Fairphone 5 parts won’t be backward compatible with Fairphone 4

E-WASTE Fairphone 5 parts won’t be backward compatible with Fairphone 4 The Fairphone 5 (left) is very close in shape to the Fairphone 4 (right), but not quite close enough. by Jay Richardson1st September 2023 The fifth generation of Fairphone’s ultra-repairable smartphone, Fairphone 5, will not contain any parts compatible with the previous generation, the […]

A.S. Francis is writing Black history, like it or not

A.S. Francis is writing Black history, like it or not Students of African history and anticolonial resistance found themselves fighting their own university after it silently cancelled their course and fired their supervisor. by Jay Richardson31 August 2023 On 16 June this year, Dr Claudia Tomlinson earned her PhD. She became the first graduate of […]

Algae in the Mediterranean

Local authorities in Naples deemed two beaches unsafe for bathing after routine tests found twice the safe quantity of E. coli bacteria in their seawater.

Larry Summers and the Toxic Memo 

Larry Summers said he didn’t write the memo and should have reviewed it more closely. Critics argued the memo said the quiet part out loud.

Sounds like a book

A microphone points to the inside of a copy of David George Haskell's 'Sounds Wild and Broken'.

David George Haskell’s Sounds Wild and Broken (2022) seeks to establish sound as a new vital sign for the environment. It takes on more than it bargained for.

Calder Hall and British-American nuclear diplomacy

On 17 October 1956, Queen Elizabeth II opened Calder Hall, the world’s first commercial nuclear power station, at Sellafield, on the western coast of Cumbria. The two Windscale Piles preceded it in 1950 and ‘51. Both produced plutonium-239 for early British nuclear weapons.

Sounds of the Bog and the Apocalypse

A bog’s curious, ordinary, delicately explosive sounds belong in our narratives of climate crisis just as much as landscapes of epic disaster.

A southern English forest in pictures and sounds

For all the stories and statistics, woods can become distant from everyday life. Micheldever Wood is a mixed broadleaf-conifer woodland in Hampshire that contains many of the signature characteristics of a British forest.

London flood locations in pictures

As much as we tried to capture the shock of last year’s events in Halfway to Atlantis: Remembering the 2021 London floods, there wasn’t space to explore the surroundings of each flood location. This photo series gives them a little more context from other angles, and from nearby streets. As we wrote in the anniversary […]

Protest isn’t noise

When you describe the sound of protest as “noise” you deny its democratic function—and admit how much it bothers you.

UK rainfall variability: It never rains but it pours


In an era of disastrous storms and constant fear over coastal defences and flooding, you might expect rainfall to show reliable, multi-decade, climate-influenced patterns. Or at least to swing wildly, as seasonal temperatures do. The actual picture is incredibly complex: precipitation is in fact trending in certain directions and swinging wildly at the same time. […]

A field guide to open secrets

Reeds waving in the breeze

Getting to know a place takes time, even with methods like a randomised sound survey. It also takes the courage to throw away your map.

Silence and chaos and birds in between

dawn chorus

A dawn chorus contains so much joyful chaos: that’s what makes it a chorus. For pure density of sound, most green spaces at dawn in springtime could give Piccadilly Circus a run for its money.

Tall tree, loud robin

Sonograph of a London sparrow

What makes new recordings worthwhile is that they can tell us about our environment by showing how birds interact with it. With that in mind, today’s birdsongification features the humble robin.

Cherry blossom, Highbury Fields

Cherry blossom in Highbury Fields

Highbury Fields was bought for a public park in 1885 while various speculators developed the surrounding area into housing. Most of the park’s avenues are lined with London Plane trees.

Plane seed pods, King’s Cross

Plane tree seed balls

Planes are actually quite easy to grow from seed if you’re so inclined, and resists pests and diseases much better than sycamores.

Birch, Clissold Park

Birch tree, Clissold Park

Birches probably appeared amongst the first trees in the UK after the last ice age: they spread quickly and grow well in a wide range of soils, including heathland and moorland. They improve biodiversity when mixed into conifer plantations, which now contribute most new woodland planting in the UK. Birch is particularly common in Scotland, […]