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Michelle Nijhuis' Posts

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An African wildlife reserve is saved, thanks to Corneille Ewango

Corneille Ewango. Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize. In the vast Democratic Republic of the Congo, dense equatorial rainforests line the sprawling basin of the Congo River. Corneille E.N. Ewango, a Congolese botanist, has a particular appreciation for these lush stands, which represent about half of the continent's tropical forests. To him, they are a scientific puzzle, a refuge for plants, wildlife, and people -- and the place he considers home. As the director of the botany program for the 3 million-acre Okapi Faunal Reserve, Ewango risked his life to protect these forests and their people. During his country's civil war, which …

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Kaisha Atakhanova fought to keep nuclear waste out of Kazakhstan

Kaisha Atakhanova. Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize. The Republic of Kazakhstan bears the scars of its Soviet past. Intensive agriculture has drastically shrunk the inland Aral Sea, creating one of the world's worst ecological disasters, while decades of nuclear testing have poisoned the landscape and its people. The country -- which is dominated by vast stretches of steppe grassland, and underlain by rich oil and mineral deposits -- currently harbors some 237 million tons of nuclear waste. Kaisha Atakhanova, a biologist from Karaganda, Kazakhstan, has dedicated herself to repairing this damage. The founder of the Karaganda Ecological Center, or EcoCenter, Atakhanova …

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These six activists have won a top prize — and countless battles

The winners: (clockwise from left) López, Ewango, Roth, Tamayo, Goldman (cofounder of the prize), Atakhanova, Jean-Baptiste. Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize. You know it's been a tough year when you've spent half of it wondering if you're dead. Since the October debut of "The Death of Environmentalism," many environmentalists in the U.S. have indulged in spells of gloomy self-questioning. Do environmentalists need to rethink their priorities? Talk more about human beings than critters? Get religion? Give themselves a new name? The strategic questions have been endless, and often frustratingly abstract. Of course, it's helpful for a movement to take a critical …

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Trash Test Dummies

Mongo and Found uncover the hidden pleasures of reduce-reuse-recycle

Mongo, by Ted Botha, Bloomsbury, 288 pgs., 2004. Flo and Channing, a pair of occasionally employed, twentysomething hipsters in lower Manhattan, live well. At least, they eat well. They favor sushi and vegetarian pizza and soy milk and artisan bread, and they also like to indulge in custard pastries, chocolate-covered strawberries, chocolate croissants, and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. They're especially fond of waffles. And they eat it all for free. All they have to do is spend a few hours each night lurking outside restaurants, rescuing their favorite menu items from the trash. "Sometimes, people see what we're doing and say, …

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A spotlight on young enviro activists

David Brower, a pioneer of the U.S. environmental movement, once said that his generation depended on young people "to shape us up before it's too late." Though Brower -- former executive director of the Sierra Club, founder of Friends of the Earth and the Earth Island Institute -- passed away in 2000, his legacy lives on: He established the Brower Fund, which cultivates new environmental leaders through the annual Brower Youth Awards. Award winners -- aged 13 to 22 -- are chosen by a panel of activists organized by the Earth Island Institute. They get a $3,000 prize, and ongoing …

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First, Do No Farm

Michelle Nijhuis reviews Against the Grain by Richard Manning

Against the Grain By Richard Manning, North Point Press, 232 pages, February 2004 What's for dinner at your house? Unless you're a strict Atkins adherent, chances are you've got at least one of the world's four top crops on your plate. Corn, wheat, rice, and potatoes account for about two-thirds of the world's nourishment; from French fries to brown rice, these familiar starches dominate humanity's diet. Therein lies the problem, says journalist and author Richard Manning. In his new book, Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization, Manning argues that the cultivation and commodification of these humble carbs has …

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Freecycling groups spurn the landfill and spawn goodwill

Paint of no return. Let's say you're cleaning out your garage. Maybe you run across some old cans of paint and a couple of rickety chairs you've never gotten around to fixing. Would the Salvation Army want them? Not likely. You could throw the stuff out, but there's that pesky issue of landfill space -- and besides, someone might be able to use them. If you've got an Internet connection and a few minutes to spare, there's an elegant solution. It's called freecycling. Freecycling is simple. If you live in one of the 499 U.S. cities or 63 foreign ports …

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Manana Kochladze strives to protect Georgia from a BP oil pipeline

The Republic of Georgia, which gained its independence after the breakup of the Soviet Union, may be best known to Westerners as the birthplace of Josef Stalin. But this new democracy, bordered by the formidable Caucasus mountains, is also known for its alpine forests, stunning mountain gorges, and clear-running mineral springs. Kochladze. Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize. Manana Kochladze, 32, has dedicated herself to protecting the natural resources -- and the people -- of her homeland. Trained as a scientist, Kochladze left the academic world to found Green Alternative, now one of the most powerful non-governmental organizations in Georgia. Kochladze and …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Libia Grueso advocates for Afro-Colombians and their land

The Pacific Coast of Colombia, a narrow slice of jungle between the Andes and the ocean, is rich with plant and animal life. It's also home to about a third of Colombia's 10.6 million Afro-Colombians, descendants of black slaves emancipated in the mid-1800s. In recent years, this isolated area has been hit hard by logging, gold mining, industrial agriculture, and Colombia's civil war. Grueso. Photo: David Lent. Social worker Libia Grueso, a native of the Pacific Coast, is a cofounder of the Process of Black Communities (PCN), a civil-rights group that advocates for Afro-Colombians. In the early 1990s, she and …

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Demetrio do Amaral de Carvalho champions East Timor’s environment

De Carvalho. Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize. East Timor is the world's newest country. Once a Portuguese colony, the tiny Southeast Asian nation covers half of a 300-mile-long coral island. When Portugal withdrew from the island in the mid-1970s, East Timor became a disputed territory, and for decades it was devastated by civil war and Indonesian military occupation. When the East Timorese people voted for independence in 1999, Indonesian-backed militias looted and burned throughout the island, killing residents and forcing an estimated 500,000 people from their homes. In late 1999, Portugal and Indonesia both agreed to the United Nations' assumption of …

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