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Michelle Nijhuis' Posts

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A travel club provides a greener alternative to AAA

It's not easy to knock AAA. The venerable organization has 45 million members who count on it for trip insurance, travel advice, and, most of all, emergency services. It's no wonder that many members have sworn lifetime loyalty to Triple A: Rescuing drivers marooned on dark, lonely highways can do wonders for membership renewal rates. Triple eh? But is there a seedier side to this respected organization? Environmental and smart-growth activists say AAA's small team of lobbyists uses the group's outsized membership and down-home image to promote an agenda that is ecologically irresponsible. In recent years, AAA spokespeople have criticized …

Read more: Cities, Politics

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Michelle Nijhuis reviews Hunting Season, A Killing Season, and Hoot

If the pen really is mightier than the sword, it seems like environmentalists should have worked themselves out of a job a long time ago. Take a stroll through almost any bookstore, and you'll find a nature-writing section full of lushly designed covers, beautifully turned prose, and impassioned arguments on behalf of the land. It looks like a slam-dunk for Team Green. But wander a few aisles over, to the paperback fiction shelves, and you'll see why the battle of the book isn't over yet. Here, where the covers are dominated by buxom women, fearsome weapons, and billboard-size type, right-wing …

Read more: Living

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On the Mexican coast, little shrimp are causing big trouble

Just above the high-tide mark on the coast of northern Mexico, elegant fingers of pitaya cacti rise far above the surrounding mesquite trees. Roseate spoonbills and frigatebirds sail silently overhead, a dolphin skirts the tangle of mangroves near the shore, and a fishing boat sputters out to the Sea of Cortez. On this muggy, almost unbearably hot slice of Sonoran coastline, sunset can be the most dramatic thing that happens all day. Sunset over the Sea of Cortez. Or that, at any rate, was how life was before the bulldozers arrived. Speculators have demolished more than 1,000 acres of cactus …

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Life in the Stupid Zone

Writer Ed Quillen says that town and county planners should adopt a new category called the Stupid Zone. You know some Stupid Zone residents, I'm sure: those nearsighted folks who choose to live at the bottom of avalanche chutes, on top of earthquake faults, or in the middle of a 10-year floodplain. Like me, you might have sighed at their various predicaments, thinking, Too bad, but didn't they know what was coming? Stupid is where stupid lives. This month, as wildfires have exploded all over the West, I've come to an uncomfortable realization. I live in the Stupid Zone. I …

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Michelle Nijhuis reviews Water Wars by Vandana Shiva

I can see the source of the world's water problems from my office window. It's called the Fire Mountain Canal, and it winds its way past peach and apple orchards, through green horse pastures, and around the edge of the dry, juniper-covered mesa where I live. This fat, smooth snake of water seems like a generous thing; after all, it supports the work of local Colorado farmers, who stuff us with cherries, chilies, meat, and other goodies each year. But the canal cheats the river itself, sucking out so much water that the local swimming season ends in June. Thousands …

Read more: Cities

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Michelle Nijhuis reviews Power Politics by Arundhati Roy

When your first novel wins the Booker Prize, sells 6 million copies, and earns you a publicity trip around the world, what do you do next? Arundhati Roy, author of the 1997 novel The God of Small Things, decided she wanted to switch from fiction to the hard facts. A year after Roy's big debut, the New Delhi resident published a slim volume called The Cost of Living. The book consisted of two political essays. One attacked her country's nuclear buildup, while the other condemned the Narmada Valley Development Project, a series of 3,200 dams planned for west-central India's Narmada …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Michelle Nijhuis reviews The Tapir's Morning Bath by Elizabeth Royte

It's easy to glorify field biologists. They travel to exotic locales, hang out with rare wildlife, and further humanity's understanding of the natural world. What could be more valuable -- or more fun? The Tapir's Morning Bath By Elizabeth Royte Houghton Mifflin Co., 288 pages, 2001 Wanna buy it? The Tapir's Morning Bath brings the discipline gently down to earth. Barro Colorado Island, a six-square-mile island in Panama's Canal Zone, is one of field biology's most famous exotic locales. Since the early 1900s, biologists have roamed the island's rainforest, observing, collecting, and analyzing the tropical frenzy. The accumulated data makes …

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A longhair stirs up politics in Colorado

Art Goodtimes is driving my car, and he's making me a little nervous. Not that he's a bad driver. But he's talking Colorado politics, and he's warming up to the subject. He starts gesturing, and soon he's taking both hands off the wheel when he particularly wants to make a point. I realize my car's alignment is in much worse shape than I'd thought. Estate of the Art. We're driving to Unaweap Canyon on the Colorado-Utah border, where Goodtimes and his family are expected to join friends at a sweat lodge on this Sunday afternoon. While his wife Mary, daughters …

Read more: Politics