My Adventures With the Trip Doctors

My first psilocybin journey began around an altar in the middle of a second-story loft in a suburb of a small city on the Eastern Seaboard. On this adventure I would have a guide, a therapist who, like an unknown number of other therapists administering psychedelics in America today, must work underground because these drugs are illegal. Seated across the altar from me, Mary (who asked that I use a nickname because of the work she does) began by reciting, with her eyes closed, a long and elaborate prayer derived from various Native American traditions. My eyes were closed, too, but now and again I couldn’t resist peeking out for a glance at my guide: a woman in her 60s with long blond hair parted in the middle and high cheekbones that I mention only because they would, in a few hours, figure in her miraculous transformation into a Mexican Indian.

The New Science of Psychedelics

Recent studies are finding that drugs such as LSD and psilocybin can help to alleviate depression, anxiety and addiction—and may have profound things to teach us about how the mind works

Food and More: Expanding the Movement for the Trump Era

If the recent election had an upside, it’s this: It demonstrated that the good food movement is real. Four jurisdictions—Boulder, Oakland, San Francisco, and Albany (California)—approved taxes on soda, which will benefit both public health and public finances. (Two days later, lawmakers in Cook County, Illinois, also approved a soda tax, becoming the largest jurisdiction

Big Food Strikes Back: Why did the Obamas fail to take on corporate agriculture?

Whenever the Obamas seriously poked at Big Food, they were quickly outlobbied and outgunned. Why? Because the food movement still barely exists as a political force in Washington. It doesn’t yet have the organization or the troops to light up a White House or congressional switchboard when one of its issues is at stake.

A secret weapon to fight climate change: dirt

When Will Allen is asked to name the most beautiful part of his Vermont farm, he doesn’t talk about the verdant, rolling hills or easy access to the Connecticut River. Though the space is a picturesque postcard of the agrarian idyll, Allen points down, to the dirt. “This precious resource not only grows food,” he says, “but is one of the best methods we have for sequestering carbon.”

The Trip Treatment

On an April Monday in 2010, Patrick Mettes, a fifty-four-year-old television news director being treated for a cancer of the bile ducts, read an article on the front page of the Times that would change his death. His diagnosis had come three years earlier, shortly after his wife, Lisa, noticed that the whites of his eyes had

How a national food policy could save millions of lives

How we produce and consume food has a bigger impact on Americans’ well-being than any other human activity. The food industry is the largest sector of our economy; food touches everything from our health to the environment, climate change, economic inequality and the federal budget. Yet we have no food policy — no plan or agreed-upon principles — for managing American agriculture or the food system as a whole.

That must change.

The Intelligent Plant

In 1973, a book claiming that plants were sentient beings that feel emotions, prefer classical music to rock and roll, and can respond to the unspoken thoughts of humans hundreds of miles away landed on the New York Times best-seller list for nonfiction. “The Secret Life of Plants,” by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, presented a beguiling mashup of legitimate plant science, quack experiments, and mystical nature worship that captured the public imagination at a time when New Age thinking was seeping into the mainstream.

My Tragic Encounter With James Taylor’s Pig

The summer of 1971 was drawing to a close, and I had a large and growing problem: Kosher, my pet pig. I was 16, and the pig had been a poorly-thought-through joke gift from my father.

Some of My Best Friends Are Germs

I can tell you the exact date that I began to think of myself in the first-person plural — as a superorganism, that is, rather than a plain old individual human being. It happened on March 7. That’s when I opened my e-mail to find a huge, processor-choking file of charts and raw data from a laboratory located at the BioFrontiers Institute at the University of Colorado, Boulder. As part of a new citizen-science initiative called the American Gut project, the lab sequenced my microbiome — that is, the genes not of “me,” exactly, but of the several hundred microbial species with whom I share this body. These bacteria, which number around 100 trillion, are living (and dying) right now on the surface of my skin, on my tongue and deep in the coils of my intestines, where the largest contingent of them will be found, a pound or two of microbes together forming a vast, largely uncharted interior wilderness that scientists are just beginning to map.