Jessica Leigh Hester

Jessica Leigh Hester

Jessica Leigh Hester is a senior associate editor at CityLab, covering environment and culture. Her work also appears in the New Yorker, The Atlantic, New York Times, Modern Farmer, Village Voice, Slate, BBC, NPR, and other outlets.

A figure walks along a beach with tufts of dune grass

The Rush to Storm-Proof Waterfront Parks

The NYC Parks Department is laying out a set of guidelines to prevent parkland from getting swamped by rain and waves.

A collage of postcards and palms trees of the Florida shore

The Archaeologists Saving Miami's History From the Sea

As the water level rises, more than 16,000 historic sites across Florida are at risk of being drowned by waves. In Miami-Dade County, researchers are working to keep history on solid ground.

Food scraps in a green compost bin

Why Cities Are Working With Businesses to Fight Food Waste

In Nashville and New York, officials are leveraging relationships with companies and nonprofits to get smarter about food usage and disposal.

A map of the U.S. showing where Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Matthew, Sandy, and Maria hit.

How Do This Year's Storms Stack Up Against Hurricane Sandy?

We compared the strength, consequences, and long roads to recovery.

A red flag on the beach warns swimmers of high surf and dangerous currents in the Rockaways in October 2017, five years after the area was ravaged by Sandy.

The Long Tail of a Storm

Five years after Superstorm Sandy, some effects still linger.

A truck dumps compost materials inside a receiving area at the Cedar Grove processing facility near Seattle, Washington.

How Much Food Do Cities Squander?

Researchers have unearthed the wasteful habits of households and businesses in Nashville, Denver, and New York—and created a blueprint for curbing them.

A woman pushes a stroller past a pile of garbage bags on a snow bank next to a New York City sidewalk.

Is Garbage a Product of Bad Design?

A team of architects and planners has set out to prove that heaps of waste aren’t an immutable part of a city’s topography.

Horned Larks from 1904 (top) and 1966 (bottom), The Field Museum.

How Soot-Covered Birds Narrate Pollution's Toxic Legacy

By analyzing collections at natural history museums, researchers revisited 135 years of industry.

A resident uses a plastic bag to move downed power cables in Puerto Rico.

Is Solar the Answer to Puerto Rico's Blackout?

Energy companies are scrambling to get solar microgrids up and running—and imagining a future that leans away from diesel.

People walk next to fallen electric poles and traffic signs in Salinas, Puerto Rico, after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria.

Puerto Rico's Grid Needs a Complete Overhaul

Allocating money to rebuild won’t be enough, experts say, unless the island can also rethink its entire energy strategy.

Visitors take selfies and sit near the lion known as Patience on the steps of the New York Public Library in New York.

A 3-Hour Love Letter to the New York Public Library

Frederick Wiseman’s joyful new documentary celebrates the local branches as public space.

Pedestrians walk past illuminated trees, with skyscrapers in the background, on a rainy night in Tokyo.

How Much Are Trees Worth to Megacities?

Leafy infrastructure saves bustling metropolises about $505 million each year, according to new research.

A home is surrounded by floodwaters from Hurricane Ike in Galveston, Texas September 13, 2008.

'This Storm Has It All'

As the heavily developed Houston area braces for Hurricane Harvey, an urban flooding expert sees a catastrophe in the making.

A hand stirring a soup over a stove.

Saving Your Home From Food Waste, One Graying Avocado at a Time

Amazon’s Alexa can now field questions about storing and salvaging food before it lands in the dumpster or compost bin.

A woman in a raincoat pushes her daughter in a shopping cart across a flooded street

How Do We Keep From Going Hungry During Disasters?

Storms and rising waters threaten cities’ food, but some municipalities are taking steps to keep shelves stocked and bellies full.

A sign reading "quiet please"

The Art of Complaining About Noise

A new trove of correspondence with his upstairs neighbors reveals Marcel Proust’s charming but desperate pleas for quiet.

A kid with a Mohawk hairdo travels on the subway line number 2 in Shanghai

Would You Give Up Your Subway Seat to a Kid?

Readers (and riders) respond to a recent CityLab essay about who deserves to sit.

Books on a shelf of the Brooklyn Public Library's Bedford branch

Helping Homeless New Yorkers by the Books

With a new resident social worker, the Brooklyn Public Library is pushing staff and patrons toward a culture of inclusivity.

The price of bananas is displayed on a digital price tag at a 365 by Whole Foods Market grocery store.

The Past and Future of Urban Grocery Shopping

In his new book, Michael Ruhlman charts the overlap of food, commerce, and identity.

Kamau Ware and a handful of tour-goers on the streets of the Financial District in New York

Retracing Black Gotham

A walking tour and graphic novel series memorialize Manhattan’s earliest African residents.