Michelle Nijhuis

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

A Peruvian activist takes on the fishmeal industry

Maria Elena Foronda Farro was born to be an activist. Her father, a union lawyer in Chimbote, Peru, taught her — through words and by example — about the importance of social justice. Foronda, who grew up in Chimbote and earned a master’s degree in sociology in Mexico, is now applying her father’s lessons to her hometown. Maria Elena Foronda Farro. Photo: Richard Goldgewicht. Peru is the world’s largest producer of fishmeal, a substance used in fertilizers and animal feed, and the industry dominates Chimbote and other coastal towns. Many of the factories are located in the middle of residential …

Pedro Arrojo-Agudo has started a new water culture in the Old World

Economics professor Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, who teaches at the University of Zaragoza in Spain, is using his academic expertise to battle a monster: the National Hydrological Plan, a $25 billion project that would build 120 dams on the Ebro River. The dams would submerge entire towns along Spain’s second-longest river, displace tens of thousands of rice and fish farmers, and poison the wetlands of the river delta with salt. Arrojo-Agudo’s analyses have shown that the project makes little environmental, social, or economic sense. Pedro Arrojo-Agudo. Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize. So Arrojo-Agudo, 52, has stepped off campus to organize an enormous grassroots …

An Aboriginal elder battles construction of a radioactive-waste dump in Australia

In the 1950s and ’60s, the British military conducted a dozen full-scale nuclear tests in the desert of southern Australia. To the military, the region was a wasteland, the best possible place for such a project; to the Aboriginal people who had lived in the desert for millennia, the land was their home. Eileen Kampakuta Brown and Eileen Wani Wingfield. Photo: Robert Roll. The military told the Aboriginals that the testing was safe, but in its wake many went blind, suffered radiation sickness, or developed cancer. Now, half a century later, the Australian government has proposed building a new radioactive-waste …

Von Hernandez sparked a mass movement to keep trash incinerators out of the Philippines

The industrialized world is fond of exporting its problems: its toxic waste, its low-paying jobs, its most incorrigible mining and logging companies. Von Hernandez, the coordinator of Greenpeace International’s Toxics Campaign in Asia, says “dirty technology” — especially large-scale waste incineration — is also being shipped away to developing countries. On April 14, Hernandez was awarded one of six 2003 Goldman Environmental Prizes for his battle against waste incineration in the Philippines. Von Hernandez. Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize. Hernandez, 36, a native of Manila and a former literature professor at the University of the Philippines, has spent nearly a decade …

West Virginia activist Julia Bonds takes on mountaintop-removal mining

The ancient mountains of Appalachia are corrugated with deep, narrow valleys, some of them no wider than a football field. Coal-mining families, who have lived in these valleys for generations, are now being driven out of their homes by the latest innovation of the very industry that has sustained them for so many years. That innovation, mountaintop-removal mining, literally slices off mountain peaks, threatening the valleys below with massive floods, sludge spills, and indiscriminate waste dumping. So far, this brutal form of mining has destroyed more than a thousand miles of streams and rivers. Julia Bonds. Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize. …

Nigerian activist Odigha Odigha fights to halt illegal logging

In southeastern Nigeria, private logging companies are felling the country’s last remaining rainforests. These hardwood forests shelter the highest diversity of primates in the world and some 20 percent of the planet’s butterfly species. Odigha Odigha. Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize. Odigha Odigha grew up in and around these forests, in the Ijagham community of Cross River State. In the mid-1990s, after receiving an MBA at the University of Lagos and pursuing a career in politics, he returned home to find that the forests of his childhood had been obliterated by loggers. He began speaking out against the destruction, especially against …

Interviews with the 2003 winners of environmentalism’s greatest honor

These are dark times for grassroots activists. Just weeks ago, President Bush dismissed millions of anti-war protesters as little more than a “focus group” — a group whose opinions he was determined to ignore, and did. But the indifference of the world’s sole superpower is only one of the obstacles facing activists. Today’s problems are often international in scale and staggeringly complex in their origins and effects. How, then, to begin tackling them? Good as Goldman — an award for eco-heroes. The winners of the 2003 Goldman Environmental Prizes — interviewed here in this special edition of Grist — have …

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 …

E Is for Environment

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.

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