Emily Gertz

Emily Gertz is a New York City-based freelance journalist and editor who has written on business, design, health, and other facets of the environment for Grist, Dwell, Plenty, Worldchanging, and other publications.

Leggo my Yazoo

EPA set to kibosh Mississippi Delta boondoggle

Successive presidential administrations -- including the current one -- have tried to rein in the Army Corps of Engineers and its projects, which are mostly known for their tangy combination of high cost, arguable utility, and disregard for the environment. Tried -- and largely failed, thanks to the level-10 force fields erected by congresscritters who covet the flood of Corps project dollars into their districts. So it's startling and welcome news that apparently, the EPA is initiating the process to veto a massive Corps project known as the Yazoo Pumps.

A primer on chemicals, fertility, and reproduction

Illustration: Keri Rosebraugh Feeling unusually infertile lately? You’re not alone: according to a December 2005 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 12 percent of American couples reported having a hard time conceiving a child and bearing it to term in 2002, up 20 percent from the 6.1 million couples reporting such “impaired fecundity” in 1995. Although the reasons are complex and overlapping, one major factor may be nonstop exposure to low-level environmental pollutants like pesticides, dioxins, and phthalates. Because these toxics are generated in ways and places beyond our immediate control, “You can’t shop your …

Alive after Live Earth

Your intrepid Grist correspondent sweats through an arena concert, so you don’t have to

Don't ever say we never did anything for you. On Saturday, while you were cavorting in the surf, grilling organic free-range meat on the barbecue (or is that barbecuing meat on the grill?), or kicking back with a good book in the sweet, sweet air conditioning, Grist was sweating at Live Earth New York. Er, New Jersey. Whatever. We suffered through sets by Ludacris, Melissa Etheridge, Roger Waters, and the Police to report back -- to YOU, dear Grist reader -- from the front lines of global eco-activism. Or something like that. Check back soon for my report from the scene of Live Earth at Giants Stadium on 7/7/07.

The most important eco-books: an alternative list

Newer and cheekier!

With sincere respect to my colleagues across the Atlantic (this is all a matter of opinion, after all), I'm dismayed by some of the choices on their list of most important environmental books. Hoary tomes like The Lorax, an analysis of the impact of pesticides on the environment that's nearly a half-century old (I shake in my boots to criticize La Carson thus) ... if the list were of books that had a big impact in their time, or books that will bolster the sentiments of the already-sympathetic, then it would be enough. But the "small is beautiful," "earth as organism," "pursue simplicity" approach to eco-reform reflected in most of these choices has not proven a big winner in Western mass culture. Right or wrong, converting Western mass culture is the task at hand today, if we're going to solve the problems addressed by these authors over the decades. What are the books that speak to more recent science, contemporary events, and our evolving understanding of the intersections of environment with economy, culture, and human rights? Here are some titles I'd consider:

Using grease and other goodies, small biodiesel producers are making a big difference

If you live in a city of any size, you’ve likely seen them out there: boxy little ’80s-era foreign cars, bumpers adorned with pro-ecology and anti-war slogans, and references to “grease.” Even the fumes they emit may smell different: literally like French fries, in some cases; like generic used vegetable oil in others. Foh sizzle my fuel-izzle. Photo: iStockphoto Welcome to the small-scale biodiesel movement, a grassroots challenge to Big Oil and Big Ag. While corporate giants create fuel by refining crude oil and fermenting corn, these more modest initiatives focus on a feedstock no one else wants: waste cooking …

From cow poop to cow power: A journey in photographs

See post-bovine methane generate clean electricity!

On some days it's especially fabulous to be an eco-scribe. I had one of those days on Wednesday, Oct. 25. As part of a group from the Society of Environmental Journalists, I got to tour Vermont's very first cow-power operation, in which the non-dairy output of a herd of Holsteins is turned into cleanly generated electricity. It's got the potential to help more of Vermont's beleaguered dairy farmers stay in business, while cutting their operation costs over time and keeping the methane generated by decomposing cow poop out of our greenhousing atmosphere. The tour took place at Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport, Vermont, owned by the same family for about three generations. We begin in the barn, a vast structure lit with natural light ... ... and home to the farm's many, many Holsteins:

Green sex toy sound bites

Not as dirty as it sounds

I've had the pleasure of covering all sorts of environmental matters, and interviewing fellow enviro-writers, in the past few years, often for Grist. But so far no piece has reverberated quite like Naughty by Nature: Ever thought about the toxins in your sex toys? Not that I'm complaining; my reputation as the author of this article consistently precedes me into various NYC green gatherings, leading to all manner of astonishingly frank conversation with casual acquaintances or total strangers. And when asked at dinner parties to explain what I do as an environmental journalist, it sure beats the melting Arctic or the destruction of the Everglades for upbeat chat. Happily for the sexual health of every American, interest in this topic just won't quit. To wit: I have a couple soundbites in this inaugural installment of TreeHugger Radio, a partnership between our pals at TH and EcoTalk Radio. As a huge fan of radio -- and environmental journalism in all media formats -- I wish them the best of luck.

How birding and blogging changed one soldier’s time in Iraq

Glassing the evening sky for feather and foe. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Trouern-Trend. Jonathan Trouern-Trend has been a dedicated bird-watcher since he was about 12. So in 2004, when the now 38-year-old Connecticut National Guard sergeant got sent to Iraq, he had birds on the brain. While stationed at Camp Anaconda — a huge American installation located about 40 miles north of Baghdad in the Sunni Triangle near the Tigris River — Trouern-Trend got to know the better birding spots on the base, including a small lagoon and the camp dump. Since he was working in intelligence, the base MPs …

Two new nature books for city slickers

Lately, green is the new black in the American metropolis. Here in New York City, the cabbies are driving hybrids and the fashionistas are wearing organic jeans. Even in my decidedly un-hip Brooklyn neighborhood, the corner deli sells organic milk and cookies. Green is busting out all over. Photo: iStockphoto. Green-tinted consumerism is probably gaining ground in your city too. (Is that a Whole Foods opening up downtown? A Chipotle restaurant selling free-range pork burritos in the storefront that once nurtured a Krispy Kreme?) But if your city is anything like mine, centuries of energy, habitation, waste, and other systems …