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Shalini Ramanathan's Posts

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A review of Wangari Maathai’s autobiography Unbowed

October 2004 was an exciting time to be a tree-hugger in Wangari Maathai's home country of Kenya. When she was announced as winner of that year's Nobel Peace Prize, many of my environmentally inclined friends and colleagues were eager to help her figure out what to do with the giant megaphone she had just been handed. Earnest volunteers with ideas and expectations streamed in and out of the downtown Nairobi office hurriedly established to handle the crush of publicity, clutching notes on what they thought the new Nobel laureate should do. She already knew exactly what she wanted to do: …

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Kenya’s president sells out national parks for politics

If pieces of land could speak, that's the question the 155 sq. mile Amboseli National Game Reserve in Kenya might be asking itself. The Game Reserve was, until earlier this month, a National Park -- it was run by national authorities. President Kibaki, breaking half a dozen laws and procedures, degazetted Amboseli. He downgraded it to a Game Reserve, and gave control and management of it to the Maasai people who live in the area. The Maasai have no training or background in wilderness management or infrastructure maintenance.Amboseli is dead gorgeous. It has vast golden plains and views of snow-capped …

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Indian movies need to take up the plastic-bag fight

Plastic bags may be banned in the Indian state of Maharashtra due to concerns that by clogging the city's drains they contributed to the floods that swept the coast last month and brought life to a halt in buzzing Bombay. There are protests from the predictable quarters; apparently, 20,000 people in the state are employed to painstakingly manufacture thin bags that are good for carrying one coconut for ten yards before stretching out and leaving you with a bag with a hole in it but no coconut. Maharashtra is, famously, the home of Bollywood, which churns out so many movies …

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Will Gucci be next?

Now that Chanel's off limits.

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The new economic powerhouse

This book review of China, Inc. scares me. While green design and social responsibility have taken firm root in Europe and are penetrating the American consciousness, China, as this book review makes clear, is a ruthless economic machine devoted to one thing only: undercutting everybody else's prices. (I wouldn't want to be the one introducing CSR in sweatshops staffed by desperate ex-peasants churning out plastic bunnies, way cheaper than anyone else can make plastic bunnies.)While a lot of thought has been devoted to dealing with the environmental problems within China, and of course China's considerable contributions to global warming, I …

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Sustainable building in China?

Check out this article in Metropolis about sustainable building in China. The country's Ministry of Construction has announced breathtakingly ambitious plans to reduce all buildings' energy use by 50% by 2010 and to use PV and other renewable energy technologies to power 80 million square meters of building space. The article notes that, if implemented, the building program would be the most ambitious in world history.Considering that China is in the middle of a construction frenzy (the word "boom" doesn't do the situation justice), it's encouraging to hear that sustainable design is even on the table. Given the potential size …

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Deck chairs on the Titanic

While it's noble that people the world over are horrified by the human toll of the tsunami (Mozambique just donated $100,000 for tsunami relief), this outpouring of sympathy is not altogether logical. As Nicholas Kristof pointed out in the New York Times, malaria, AIDS, and diarrhea each cause as many deaths each month as the tsunami did in December. If it was the actual toll of human suffering that got to us (and not just the theatrics of destruction), maybe we as a species would be more concerned about climate change. But for now, we can at least read about …

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If loving The Onion is wrong, I don’t wanna be right

Two years ago, a friend challenged me to get through a single day without quoting The Onion even once. Couldn't do it then; can't do it now. Here, just in time to celebrate Russia dropping off accession papers on the ratification of Kyoto, comes a sober overview of climate change impacts.

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Four more years of rhymes with “yell”

Interesting (and by interesting, I mean depressing) article in Salon on what the Bush victory may mean for the environment and for enviros.

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More power to the sweet stuff

A story in The New York Times last week reports the increasing popularity in Brazil of flex fuel vehicles that can use gasoline or ethanol interchangeably. Drivers with these snazzy cars can choose a fuel for the day's driving based on availability, price, or sheer whim. These flex fuel vehicles might have a market well beyond Brazil now that oil has hit $54 a barrel. While using ethanol as a transportation fuel won't solve all air quality problems, it can be part of the solution in many countries.The increased demand for ethanol created by the introduction of flex fuel cars …

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