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Maywa Montenegro's Posts

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The greening of Greensburg

How one small town in Kansas is turning disaster into progress

There wasn't much to be happy about on today's media spectrum. So I thought I'd share one heartwarming story about one Kansas town's efforts to pick up the pieces after a devastating tornado: Townhomes are beginning to rise from the ragged tree trunks, weeds and ruins off Main Street. They mark a radical departure from traditional low-income housing, according to Duncan Trahl, who is from Pennsylvania and on contract with the National Renewable Energy Labs. The townhomes are "LEED gold certified," Trahl said. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The rating is based on a system which …

Read more: Cities

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Law of the Sea

What will US ratification mean for health of the oceans?

I recently wrote a short piece for Seed about the Law of the Sea -- a piece of legislation that has been held up in the US Senate for the past 25 years, and which, if ratified, could have a major impact on ocean health. The treaty -- which was given a thumbs-up in October by the US Foreign Relations Committee and now awaits ratification in the Senate -- declares most of earth's vast ocean floor to be the "common heritage of mankind," placing it under UN aegis "for the benefit of mankind as a whole." That language has some …

Read more: Politics

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Pollan connects the dots

Why bees and pigs are not machines

In yesterday's New York Times Magazine, Michael Pollan writes, "Two stories in the news this year, stories that on their faces would seem to have nothing to do with each other let alone with agriculture, may point to an imminent breakdown in the way we're growing food today." Can you guess what they are? Answer here.

Read more: Food

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Little shopping bag of horrors

Retailers beef up the packaging

For Christmas last year, I received an iPod Nano (through which I now get my weekly fix of podcasts from NPR Environment, PRI Living on Earth, and of course, Grist). That the Nano weighs a mere 1.74 oz. and is so slim it easily gets lost in an overstuffed pocket is pretty impressive. Nearly as impressive, however, is that I walked out of the store toting this pygmie player inside an slick, white, matte, double-ply plastic behemoth of a bag, with sturdy woven cords that cinched the neck; it could have easily fit 100 Nanos with room several real apples …

Read more: Living

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Red List not enough

Experts push for an intergovernmental biodiversity panel

For this enviro, Christmas is shaping up pretty nicely this year. Today, as post-Kyoto discussions commence in Bali, Australia has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, sweeping aside decades of Howard's curmudgeonly climate skepticism. Another unexpected gift came last month, when a group of 80 experts convened in France to mull over the future of biodiversity. Their consensus? That we need to establish a new intergovernmental panel -- akin to the IPCC -- to begin aggressively addressing the biodiversity crisis. In words that would surely make E.O. Wilson proud, the committee said: "It is not enough to draw up a list of …

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A bumper crop of corn

Malawi celebrates, but for how long?

So while the U.S. Farm Bill is out to pasture until 2008, it looks like most commodity subsidies will remain untouched. Agricultural price supports may be the law of the land here, but it's certainly not what we've been advocating abroad. A bittersweet story on page one of today's NY Times documents how Malawians are pulling back from the brink, largely because -- going against the wishes of the World Bank -- they've begun to reinstitute government crop subsidies: Over the past 20 years, the World Bank and some rich nations Malawi depends on for aid have periodically pressed this …

Read more: Food, Politics

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Drying up

A global trend toward drought

A few months ago, I reported on the decade-long drought that's bedeviling Australia. In it I predicted -- with the help of experts such as Tim Flannery -- that climate skeptic John Howard would lose his seat to the Labor Party leader, Kevin Rudd, in this October's national elections. Rudd is running on a platform that includes $50 million for geothermal energy, $50 million for an Australian Solar Institute, and a 60 percent cut in CO2 emissions by 2050. And according to Flannery, the election will in large part be a referendum on climate change. That may explain why, when …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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The debate heats up

Is geoengineering worth a second look?

Until recently, I was under the impression that scaling back carbon emissions 80% by 2050 might forestall the worst of effects of global warming. But with news like yesterday's,  with California up in flames, and with the Arctic ice cap shrunken to an all-time low, I'm beginning to wonder if we've already done so much damage that a technological fix might be necessary. In today's Times, Ken Caldeira, of the Global Ecology Department at Stanford makes his case: If we could pour a five-gallon bucket's worth of sulfate particles per second into the stratosphere, it might be enough to keep …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Junk-free mailbox

A new company offers relief from unwanted mail

Perhaps the only great thing about having moved four times in the past year is that I get virtually no junk mail, at least yet. At my permanent residence in Tennessee, however, where my parents have lived for over twenty years; the catalogs, credit card offers, and sweepstakes offers cram the mailbox on a daily basis. Just yesterday my mother was telling me how bad it's gotten -- and how bad she feels trekking straight from the post box to the recycling bin with armfuls of glossy glut. Last year I posted about Greendimes, an agency that, for a dime …

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Our twisted Farm bill

An audio story about ag subsidies

This little radio story, from NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday, tells the story of a sprawling ranch in Texas. It was the single largest recipient of federal farm subsidies between 1999 and 2005 -- receiving some $8.3 million, not for cattle, but for cotton. Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group says this: It's the exact opposite of what most taxpayers have in mind when they think of how their farm subsidy money is supporting agriculture. The farm is so big and so profitable, apparently, that it only applies for subsidies because "other cotton growers do," and because "the federal …

Read more: Food, Politics