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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Award-winning journalist and pretty good mom Michelle Nijhuis writes about science and the environment from western Colorado. Follow her on Twitter.
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