Articles by Maywa Montenegro
Maywa Montenegro is an editor and writer at Seed magazine, focusing mainly on ecology, bidiversity, agriculture, and sustainable development.
Climate action plans for the first 100 days and beyond
I am blown away by the depth and scope of the nonpartisan Presidential Climate Action Project. Its centerpiece is a first-100-days plan, detailed in a 300-page report, covering issues ranging from energy policy and green collar jobs to the farm bill and ethanol subsidies to the Law of the Sea. My only quibble is the continued support for grain ethanol -- although the project does advocate quick turnover to cellulosic sources -- how quick that evolution will be is a huge outstanding question. Apart from the report, the PCAP website also features a very cool Who's Who in Climate Action, a database of climate professionals and a Contact the Candidates link, where you can submit your own suggestions to the presidential hopefuls (the page needs to be updated; although I'm sure Giuliani would still welcome email about the state of the planet).
And PCAP isn't the only player in the game. As Elizabeth Kolbert reports, a number of think tanks and coalitions have been cranking out climate recommendations for the next president of the United States. Whoever that turns out to be, the next president's problem won't be a lack of guidelines or expert advice ... if anything, it will be the opposite.
Premier episode of a new online film series features Jones and Carl Pope
A new online film series called This Brave Nation premiered its first episode Sunday night: a conversation between Carl Pope and Van Jones. Both are natives of Frisco and both are equally adamant about environmental stewardship, but they have vastly different approaches. Here they chat about melding those tactics towards a common goal. Later this month, on June 15, Pete Seeger and Majora Carter discuss environmentalism, protest music, civil rights, and urban renewal. Should be interesting.
Sustainability a big theme at the World Science Festival
What do vertical farms, green roofs, soft cars, breathing walls, and Dongtan, China, have in common? They were all subjects of discussion at Friday's Future Cities event in New York City, part of the four-day 2008 World Science Festival.
To a packed house, Columbia University microbiologist Dickson Despommier described his vision for feeding the planet's burgeoning, and increasingly urban, population. The vertical farm takes agriculture and stacks it into the tiers of a modern skyscraper. Instead of stopping at the corner pizzeria for dinner, Despommier suggested, you could pluck a nice head of lettuce, maybe some corn, and some tomatoes for a big salad, all in your own building, on the way to your apartment. You can't get fresher or more local than that.
According to Despommier, the farms will be "grown organically: no herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers." (Of course, being indoor, there won't be many insects to spray for.) The farms will also require much less irrigation since all water can be re-circulated, and they'll curb the growing pressure to turn forest into farmland.
The vertical farm sounds (and looks) pretty amazing, and certainly Despommier deserves much credit for thinking boldly ... but I was left with several questions.
Social concerns complicate an issue that, for scientists, is a no-brainer
A couple of months ago, I wrote a piece, now posted at Seed, about a financial mechanism for reducing deforestation and degradation (REDD) and vaster territory it will likely prime for pricing ecosystem services.
It's fun to watch the story evolve, as now we're seeing the U.K.-based Canopy Capital sign an agreement to protect a 371,000 hectare chunk of tropical forest in Guyana -- in advance even of a market infrastructure to value all the services provided by this land.
For the most part, I see action in this direction as a good thing. Certainly the climate scientists, conservationists, and environmentalists who support "natural capital" schemes have their heads and hearts in the right place. But in the course of reporting for the story, I uncovered a tier of concerns missing, for the most part, from popular media coverage of the subject. Indigenous rights groups and NGOs are highly concerned [PDF] about the implications of what amounts to leasing their land to foreign investors.