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Lights, camera, activism: Filming the story of environmentalism

Mark Kitchell. (Photo by Gabriela Hasbun.) This OnEarth story was written by Bruce Barcott. In a creaky wood-floor office overlooking San Francisco Bay, the documentary filmmaker Mark Kitchell removes his glasses, runs his hand through his hair, and glares at a computer screen filled with thumbnail images of film clips. Kitchell, 59, is in the throes of a dilemma. He's spent the past 10 years making A Fierce Green Fire, an epic documentary about the 50-year evolution of the modern environmental movement. He has two hours and 12 minutes in the can. And it's good. "The material is vast, and …

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Will my baby be the 7 billionth?

Will she save the world, or at least help make it a better place?Photo: Andrew Albertson This post is written by Laura Wright Treadway, a contributing editor at OnEarth. Elon Musk is something of an eco-superhero: He founded and invested his personal fortune in the electric car company Tesla Motors, intent on changing the way we consume natural resources by remaking the way we get around. He also has five sons, which seems rather at odds with his planet-saving personal and professional mission. And in 2009, the South African-born multi-millionaire told The New Yorker's Tad Friend that he isn't finished …

Read more: Living, Population

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The great oyster crash

Photo: Min LeeThis OnEarth column was written by Eric Scigliano. In the summer of 2007, something strange and troubling happened at the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery on Netarts Bay in Oregon, which raises oyster larvae for shellfish growers from Mexico to Canada. The hatchery's "seed," as the oyster larvae are called, began dying by the millions, for no apparent reason. Disease isn't uncommon in a hatchery's tanks, but that same year, up the coast in Washington, wild oyster larvae also failed in Willapa Bay, which has been the heart of the Pacific Northwest's oyster industry since the 1850s. The Willapa …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food

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Is your shampoo making you fat?

This OnEarth column was written by Laura Fraser. We all know that Americans -- leading the way for the rest of the developed world -- are getting fatter. We hear about the "obesity epidemic" on the TV news, with footage of people depicted from the waist down shuffling around in XXL sweatpants and carrying supersized sodas. The majority of us are overweight, complaining about how our jeans are getting tighter and wondering why, despite all our efforts to diet and go to the gym, the number on the scale keeps edging higher. For years, the explanation for weight gain was …

Read more: Living

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What ever happened to the party of national security?

This OnEarth column was written by George Black. I don't spend a lot of time listening to Rush Limbaugh. But driving through Wyoming recently, I chanced upon his distinctive cadences on my car radio. I couldn't find a reliable signal for NPR, I don't like Mötley Crüe, and I was getting tired of listening to the preacher on a Christian station who was giving listeners his interpretation of the stream of crazy weather events and disasters this spring -- raging wildfires in Arizona, floods on the Mississippi, epic tornados in the Southeast, record snowfall in the Rockies. The preacher told …

Read more: Uncategorized

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How to build a better playground

This story was written by Shanti Menon. In her new book Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation, Berkeley-based environmental planner Sharon Danks explores the ways in which landscape design, architecture, child development, and nutrition converge in the schoolyard. OnEarth sat down with Danks, whose firm, Bay Tree Designs, Inc, is helping redevelop some 29 San Francisco schoolyards, to talk about how communities are transforming the asphalt playgrounds of the past into green spaces conducive to better learning, eating, and playing. Q. How have playgrounds changed since we were kids? A. Playgrounds these days are influenced largely by liability …

Read more: Living

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Strawberry grower shows how to make a profit without poisons

Jim Cochran on the farm in 2004.Photo: Swanton Berry FarmThis story was written by Laura Fraser. Along California's rugged coastal Highway One, just north of Santa Cruz, a yellow vintage pick-up truck and tidy rows of strawberries mark the entrance to the Swanton Berry Farm. Inside the cheerful farm stand, decorated with old photos of the region and fluttering United Farm Worker flags, locals gather at blue picnic tables, sipping coffee, eating strawberry shortcake, and chatting with Jim Cochran, the owner. The air is scented with the first berries of the season. They're fresh and sweet, intensely red and fragrant, …

Read more: Food, Organic Food

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Maybe no one cares about climate change because we’re wired for extinction

Will we follow the Irish elk's strange evolutionary path toward extinction?This piece was written by George Black. In my unending (and thus far, I have to confess, largely fruitless) attempts to figure out why Americans aren't more alarmed about climate change, one of the more intriguing ideas I've heard recently was put to me by a psychologist named Andrew Shatté. Shatté, a professor at the University of Arizona, is best known for his work on resilience -- the ability of humans to deal with adversity. His thesis on climate change, in a nutshell, is that we are hardwired for extinction. …