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Michelle Nijhuis' Posts

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Rudolf Amenga-Etego beats back the privatization of Ghana’s water supply

Amenga-Etego. Photo: Dave Wendlinger. The western African nation of Ghana, tucked under the chin of the continent, is dominated by the enormous Lake Volta, a sprawling reservoir that arcs through the midsection of the country. Though there appears to be water, water everywhere, an estimated 70 percent of Ghana's people lack access to clean, piped drinking water. Rudolf Amenga-Etego, a 40-year-old Ghanaian attorney, is determined to change that. To Amenga-Etego, the biggest obstacle to wider water access is water privatization, especially large-scale privatization schemes backed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He recently mobilized labor unions, rural …

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Margie Eugene-Richard of Louisiana battled Shell on behalf of her neighborhood

Eugene-Richard. Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize. The Old Diamond neighborhood of Norco, in far southern Louisiana, sits between a Shell Chemicals plant and an oil refinery owned by a Shell joint venture. "We're like the meat in the sandwich," says Margie Eugene-Richard, 62, who grew up just 25 feet from the fenceline of the chemical plant. For decades, the 1,500 residents of this predominantly black neighborhood suffered unusually high rates of cancer, birth defects, and respiratory diseases. They didn't sleep well, either -- they lived in fear of a major industrial accident, like the 1973 pipeline explosion that killed an Old …

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Rashida Bee of Bhopal, India, fights against the company that devastated her community

Shukla (left) and Bee. Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize On the night of December 2, 1984, in the central Indian city of Bhopal, a massive poisonous gas leak from a Union Carbide pesticide factory killed 8,000 people. Over the course of 20 years, the infamous disaster has caused an estimated 20,000 deaths, countless birth defects, and a litany of other serious health problems. "The young women who were exposed while they were infants have different kinds of menstrual disorders, and some are going through early menopause -- at age 25 or 30," says Bhopal survivor Rashida Bee. Bee, 48, and fellow …

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Interviews with the 2004 winners of environmentalism’s top prize

The winners: (clockwise from left) Eugene-Richard, Kochladze, Goldman (cofounder of the prize), De Carvalho, Grueso, Bee, and Shukla. Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize. The environmental movement often runs on the adrenaline of outrage, and the past year has provided more outrages than most. The White House has taken aim -- and fired -- at some of our most powerful environmental laws. Multinational corporations continue to exert undue influence on, and in some cases write, regulations meant to govern them. There are new signs that humans are changing the global climate, and that species are vanishing -- perhaps even faster than we …

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Drilling on a Texas barrier island could mess with sea turtles and other critters

Life's a beach -- and then you die. Photo: NPS. This time of year, a slim strip of Texas beach known as South Padre Island is hopping with bikini-wearing, hard-drinking college students on spring break. On neighboring North Padre Island, however, the scene tends to be quite a bit calmer. Nearly 70 miles of this Gulf Coast barrier island are national seashore, managed by the National Park Service; except for one heavily visited five-mile stretch, the place is inaccessible by passenger car. "There are miles and miles of miles and miles," says Johnny French, a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Immigration controversy engulfs Sierra Club board election

If the Democratic primaries have proven a little prim and polite for your taste, there's another upcoming election that may pique your interest. This one is loaded with bitter controversy, nasty accusations, and emotional appeals to democracy and fairness. Its major players have even taken their grievances to court -- all before the nearly three-quarters of a million potential voters have gotten a peek at their ballots. Crowd and clear? What's at stake in this mudslinging contest? Five seats on the national board of the Sierra Club, the oldest, largest, and some might say most widely respected environmental organization in …

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Meow Mix

Michelle Nijhuis reviews The Beast in the Garden by David Baron

One afternoon in mid-January 1991, students in a high school English class in Idaho Springs, Colo., saw a familiar sight outside their classroom windows: Their schoolmate Scott Lancaster, a dedicated competitive cyclist, was starting his daily training run on the wooded ridge behind Clear Creek High School. The 18-year-old clowned for the class as he passed by, then continued on his circuit. He was never seen alive again. The Beast in the Garden By David Baron W.W. Norton and Company, 277 pages, 2003 Two days later, searchers found Lancaster less than half a mile from the school. The young man's …

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Super Markets

Michelle Nijhuhis reviews Power to the People by Vijay Vaitheeswaran

Just before Thanksgiving, Senate Democrats (with the aid of a few Republicans) stymied the massive national energy bill, guaranteeing that debate on the measure would drag into an election year -- and significantly reducing its chance of passing. The setback surprised some observers because the bill, which currently weighs in at just under 1,200 pages, was carefully designed by congressional leaders for maximum political appeal: Its ethanol subsidies tempted farm-state Democrats, while renewable-energy perks drew endorsements from advocates of wind and solar power. Power to the People By Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 358 pages, October 2003 But …

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Disease on Down the Road

Michelle Nijhuis reviews Six Modern Plagues and How We Are Causing Them

Six Modern Plagues By Mark Jerome Walters Island Press, 206 pages, 2003 It's easy to look at disease outbreaks as acts of God, or fate, or chance. After all, diseases are often so capricious, so stubbornly beyond our full control, that it can seem as if we humans have little to do with them -- beyond suffering the consequences, that is. But in many cases, argues journalist and veterinarian Mark Jerome Walters, we have far more influence over disease than we think. In Six Modern Plagues and How We Are Causing Them, he contends that disease outbreaks are often triggered …

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Activists and small-scale farmers are going “beyond organic” to push local foods

A-tisket, a-tasket, an organic produce basket. Photo: USDA. Organic food has hit the big time. The Whole Foods Market chain, the largest natural-foods retailer in the world, boasts 145 stores throughout North America; its leading competitor, Wild Oats, has 101 stores in 25 states and Canada. Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture put in place a set of national standards for organic food, smoothing the way for organic processors who buy ingredients from multiple states. Organic products -- fresh produce, frozen pizzas, and everything in between -- are now part of a multi-billion-dollar industry that's growing by 20 to …