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Articles by Kit Stolz

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  • An earthy non-prescription anti-depressant

    Medical researchers in the United Kingdom have found evidence that “friendly” bacteria found in soil may activate the immune system, produce the brain compound serotonin, and help ward off depression. According to a study published last week in Neuroscience, researchers from Bristol University and University College London found that mice treated with the soil agent […]

  • Economists rip off climatologists, get away with it

    As if we didn't have enough problems with the atmosphere, now along come economists to rip off the rhetoric of climatology. Or so I argue in an op-ed in the Ventura County Star. Here's the "nut graph," as they say in journalism:

    The more we discuss the economic crisis in terms of the physical world, the less we discuss the climate crisis itself, even though restoring balance in the atmosphere will be far more difficult than reviving the faltering economy. It's an alarming irony. As we worry about our melting savings and our vanishing jobs, we forget about melting icecaps and vanishing species.

    If you like to double-check sources, check out a linked version of the op-ed.

  • TreePeople founder discusses his Ashoka fellowship and green infrastructure

    Andy and Scarlett 36

    Andy Lipkis founded one of the largest independent nonprofit environmental groups in Southern California, TreePeople, which is famous in Los Angeles for helping battle the floods of 1978 and 1980, planting a million trees in the 1980s, helping teach the city to recycle in the 1990s, and, recently, working to green its schools. Lipkis just returned from a briefing trip to Washington, which he took because he and his team at TreePeople are concerned that President Obama's vaunted economic stimulus program will go mostly towards roads, bridges, and airports -- gray infrastructure -- and prolong some of the problems caused by it, such as flooding, water shortages, and pollution.

    Lipkis sees an extraordinary opportunity to invest in greening cities, adapt to climate change, reduce energy dependence, and relieve the chronic unemployment of urban youth. It's a once-in-a-lifetime deal. Yet what's interesting about Lipkis, to this observer, is the nature of his advocacy. He finds ways to make his point without demonizing or dismissing his opponents. When a Los Angeles columnist named Bill Boyarasky warned in the Los Angeles Times that environmentalists could stall Obama's reconstruction efforts, Lipkis disagreed forcefully in an op-ed, but at the same time wondered out loud if he could find a way to bring Boyarsky over to TreePeople's side.

    He sat for an interview last week.

    Kit Stolz: You were just honored with an Ashoka Fellowship, which is an award given to social entrepreneurs to help bring their work to greater numbers of people. How did this feel for you, and where do you want to take your work next?

    Lipkis: It's encouraging. I've been in this business for 38 years, and it's a nice pat on the back. Ashoka gives a three-year, stipend-funded fellowship that's intended to lead to bigger things. It's saying we're investing in you because of your track record as an activist, and because we think you could make a bigger difference. In the application process, Ashoka asks for a five-year plan. This meant we [at TreePeople] had to think hard about the next five years. Because a group of climate scientists had announced a deadline for [acting against] climate change, which is now 94 months, I made that part of my process.

    We now have 94 months to make a difference. We're facing severe weather now because of climate change. We have to radically reduce our carbon output. For me, the missing link is not just to make my city sustainable, but to work profoundly to improve all cities, to protect people from climate change. OK, I say, that's my charge. What can I do to take these innovations, which we have piloted in Los Angeles and shown to be viable, to a larger arena? How can we scale this up? We can't just move along as we have been doing -- we don't have that luxury. We have had some success, but now we have to move much more rapidly towards climate protection and adaptation. So I said, that's what I'll do. They've given me this award, now I need to make use of it.

  • Phoenix: What happens when a city built on growth begins to shrink?

    During a session called "Sustainability and Growth: How Can a City Develop Sustainably When its Identity is Built on Growth?" at the American Meteorological Society convention, a development expert named Grady Grammage colorfully dispelled some myths and revealed some little-known truths about Phoenix.

    One myth: Phoenix is unsustainable because it imports water. Virtually all cities import water, Grammage pointed out, even New York, not to mention countless other necessities for urban life, such as food, fuel, and steel. Phoenix arguably has a more stable supply of water than numerous other cities, such as San Diego, because Phoenix imports its water from numerous sources, albeit at great distances.

    In Grammage's view, a bigger question is "habitability," and he brought up the Urban Heat Island Effect, which he thinks, based on surveys, will drive more Phoenicians out of the state by 2020 than those who move in from other states. Grammage reports that when he expressed this view, various public officials and "water buffaloes" -- water experts -- in Phoenix scoffed.They think Phoenix could support as many as 10 million people -- more than twice its current population.