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Articles by Laird Townsend

Laird Townsend is an Associated Press-trained journalist and magazine editor, as well as the founder of Project Word. Previously, he has worked as features editor at Orion magazine, and editor of Terrain magazine, a Berkeley, California-based environmental news quarterly.

Featured Article

In 2011, Eric Herm’s cantaloupes exploded.

A fourth-generation cotton farmer in West Texas, Herm was experimenting with a home garden to help feed his family during the onset of a drought in the area. Blistering heat, including 100-degree days as early as May, was wilting Herm’s cotton — and in the end, it turned his melons into pressure cookers.

Most of Herm’s neighbors have lost their cotton crop the last three of four growing seasons — part of the most severe regional drought in more than 50 years. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2012 temperatures in the United States were the hottest in recorded history. And a May 2013 report by the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate concluded that “human-induced climate change” played a statistically significant role in the record-breaking temperatures of 2011, adding that the period from October 2010 to September 2011 “was Texas’s driest 12-month period on record.”

With the exception of scattered irrigation, most farmers in West Texas practice “dryland” farming, meaning they’re entirely dependent ... Read more